Utah Jazz Seeking Back to Back Wins to Open Seeding Games
Utah found themselves in a big hole against New Orleans but managed to rally to earn a two-point win over the Pelicans in the first NBA game since the league’s pause back in March. The Jazz entered Friday fourth in the Western Conference, one game behind the Nuggets in the Northwest Division, and 1.5 games ahead of Oklahoma City in addition to Houston. Utah trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, by 12 at the half and by eight after three quarters before outscoring New Orleans 27-17 in the fourth for the win. Rudy Gobert, who was one for eight at the line in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime this season, drained two free throws to break the 104-104 tie with 6.9 seconds to play and the Jazz held on when Brandon Ingram’s three-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer. Utah shot 44 percent from the floor, including eight of 34 from three-point range, but forced 21 turnovers to offset 20 of their own. Jordan Clarkson led the Jazz with 23 points off the bench in the win as one of six players in double figures.
The Jazz comes into this contest 17th in the league in scoring offense with 111 points per game this season. Utah is 13th in rebounding by pulling down 45.1 boards per night while standing 26th by dishing out 22.1 assists a night. Utah is ninth in the league in scoring defense as they allow 107.8 points per contest. Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz with 24.1 points plus 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest this season. Bojan Bogdanovic averaged 20.2 points per contest, which will have to be replaced, while Mike Conley (14 points, 4.3 assists) and Rudy Gobert (15 points, 13.7 rebounds, two blocks) are solid contributors. Emmanuel Mudiay, Joe Ingles (9.8 points, four boards, 5.1 assists), Royce O’Neale, Jordan Clarkson, Tony Bradley and Georges Niang are important pieces for coach Quin Snyder. Utah is shooting 47.4 percent from the field, which is 4th in the league in field goal percentage. The Jazz knock down an average of 13.1 triples per game, which is 8th in the league, and stand second in three-point field goal percentage by knocking down 38.1 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma City Thunder Trying to Earn Home-Court Advantage
Oklahoma City was on a roll heading into the pause with three straight victories and eight wins in their previous 10 games. The Thunder now looks to try and chase down home-court advantage for at least the opening round of the playoffs. Oklahoma City is tied for fifth in the Western Conference with Houston, standing 1.5 games behind the Jazz for fourth. The Thunder was 2.5 games behind the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets and 3.5 games behind the second-place Clippers. Oklahoma City is pretty much at full speed and saw Andre Roberson return to action after missing the entire season. That could help them on the defensive end of the floor.
The Thunder enters this one tied for 18th in the league in scoring offense as they average 110.8 points per game. Oklahoma City is 26th in rebounding with 42.7 boards a night while ranking 28th in assists by dishing out 21.9 dimes per game. The Thunder stands 10th in the league in scoring defense by allowing 108.3 points per contest. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is leading Oklahoma City with 19.3 points plus 6.1 rebounds per game on the season. Danilo Gallinari contributes 19.2 points plus 5.5 rebounds per game while Chris Paul chips in 17.7 points plus 6.8 assists a night. The Thunder can look to Steven Adams (10.9 points, 9.4 rebounds) and Dennis Schroder (19 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists) in order to get their offense going. Terrance Ferguson, Andre Roberson, Mike Muscala, Nerlens Noel, Abdel Nader and Darius Bazley all have to contribute for the Thunder to have success. Oklahoma City is 5th in the league in field goal percentage as they hit 47.3 percent from the floor as a team this season. The Thunder is tied for 27th in threes made per game as they drain 10.4 per contest while ranking 17th by hitting 35.5 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.