NBA Preview and Free Pick
Oklahoma City visits Salt Lake City in a Western Conference event versus the Utah Jazz on Monday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Thunder have lost six of their past eight games to fall into a tie with the Blazers for the fourth seed in the West. Likewise the Jazz suffered a disappointing close to their week surrendering a double-digit fourth-quarter lead at altitude to a lame-duck Pelicans troupe, as well, losing to the Grizzlies in Memphis. NBA Preview and Free Pick: Thunder +4 vs. Jazz.
The Thunder are faced with a seeding decision before tonight’s tip against the Jazz at Vivint Smart. OKC’s conundrum is whether they want to sell out in the final month of the regular season by playing their first rotation major minutes or saving their legs for postseason play. A focus on the team’s final 16-games of the regular season to remain one of the top four seeds in the West requires playing Russell Westbrook and Paul George in excess of their season average in minutes played. This asking allot considering the pairs 36 minutes per game this season.
Conversely the Thunder can save the legs of their two All-Stars and alter the second rotations time on the court in the team’s final 16 events. This would require making adjustments to the current rotations requiring that Dennis Schroder, Markieff Morris and Neriens Noel play more than their current 20 minutes per game average combined.
Injuries have convoluted and already complicated pair of rotations for the Jazz. The near-nothing bench of Utah is pedestrian as a whole. And the current roster has just seven players averaging 20-plus minutes per game. One of those seven that averages the 20-plus. The club has two other injured that combine for nearly 30-minutes per game. Ricky Rubio is out to a hip injury. Dante Exum and Raul Neto aren’t expected to contribute tonight with Neto (hamstring) out and Exum (ankle) questionable.
All-everything guard Donovan Mitchell has seen an uptick in his production of late. But even Mitchell’s 38 points on 12-of-24 shooting on Friday night wasn’t enough for the team to overcome a 114-104 loss to Memphis. Coach Quin Synder and his player personnel are rarely successful unless they defend at a high level. And with the short bench the ability to do so has been an issue. Furthermore it will continue to be such in the latter part of the regular season.
Jazz power forward Derrick Favors has shown signs of fatigue as of late. He scored just three points in Friday’s loss to the Griz. And as was the case for the Trail Blazers the Jazz face an OKC club that has defeated them in the first three of four regular season games. The Thunder outlasted the Blazers in Portland on their current road trip for a season sweep. Expect this to be the case tonight in a matchup that favors the Thunder in an underdog role.
NBA Preview and Free Pick: Thunder +4 vs. Jazz