In the biggest Thunder game since the team returned from the All-Star break, the Jazz are in OKC for a huge Western Conference matchup on Tuesday night.
Here are few things to know:
Utah on a roll
Not only have the Jazz won their last three games, but they’ve won all three games by at least 10 points with two of the wins coming against two dangerous Eastern Conference teams. Most recently, the Jazz went into the Nation’s capital on Sunday and beat the Wizards, 102-92 in a game they led by as many as 24 points.
Gordon Hayward is coming off his first All-Star Game appearance and is leading the Jazz in scoring at 22.5 points per game. Along with Hayward, George Hill is having a tremendous season as Utah’s facilitator while Rudy Gobert is one of the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year with12.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
Last time they played…
After the Jazz embarrassed the Thunder to the tune of a 20-point blowout back in December, OKC got revenge on its division rival the second time around. Russell Westbrook drained a pull-up jumper with 1.4 seconds left to give the Thunder a 97-95 win over the Jazz in Salt Lake City.
Westbrook naturally tallied his 22nd triple-double of the season in the win with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists while making a major statement in the first game after getting snubbed as an All-Star starter. The win not only ended a two-game skid for OKC, but it snapped Utah’s six-game winning streak.
With 23 games remaining for both teams, the Jazz currently sit at the no. 4 spot in the Western Conference standings while the Thunder is three games back at the No. 7 spot. Not only do the Thunder host the Jazz on Tuesday night, but it does so again on March 11 in another huge game. If OKC can win both, it would hold the tiebreaker over Utah if both teams finished with the same record at the end of the season.
Out of the 23 games both teams each have left, the Jazz play 13 teams that are currently projected to make the playoffs while the Thunder only play 11. To make matters worse for Utah, the Jazz play 10 of those 13 games on the road while the Thunder play seven of 11 at home.
Will Oladipo play?
Thunder shooting guard Victor Oladipo has sat the past two games due to back spasms and his status for the matchup with the Jazz is in question. Oladipo was a game time decision for Sunday’s game against the Pelicans before officially being ruled out, so it appears there’s a chance he’d be able to play against Utah. The Thunder will probably wait until Tuesday evening to make an official announcement but our Thunder Reporter, Steve McGehee, will have an update as soon as there’s an announcement.
Alex Abrines has filled in nicely in Oladipo’s absence, averaging 16 points and four 3-pointers per game since the All-Star break.
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