The battle between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz will be on Monday, March 11th at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Thunder go into this game with a record of 40-26 sitting fourth in the Western Conference standings after sweeping the regular season series with the Portland Trailblazers two nights ago and owning the tiebreaker. The Utah Jazz are 37-28 sitting 6th in the Western Conference standings and are 2.5 games back of the Thunder for that fourth seed. Last time these two teams played it was arguably the game of the year with the Thunder beating the Jazz 148-147 in 2OT. Donovan Mitchell had 38 points while Paul George put up 45 points, including the game winning floater over Rudy Gobert with 0.9 seconds left. Three weeks later, these Northwest Division rivals meet again for a game with major playoff implications.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, their recent struggles have been after their 2OT win against the Jazz. That game was followed by a four game losing streak and the Thunder have lost seven out of their last ten games. Albeit, George has been dealing with right shoulder soreness that caused him to miss three games. However, he is back on track and seems to be playing at his regular, MVP caliber form. Russell Westbrook has been in a shooting slump recently, shooting the worst FT% of his career, as well as shooting an abysmal 28% from 3-point land. But, he is still averaging a triple-double, facilitating for his teammates and creating havoc on the defensive end.
For the Jazz, they come into this game with a familiar conundrum on their hands. All of their point guards are injured. Rubio is day to day with a hip injury, Neto is out with a hamstring injury, and Exum is out with an ankle injury. This means Donovan Mitchell will be starting at the point guard, which is actually good news for the Jazz. When Mitchell was put in this same situation in mid-January because of all these injuries to Utah’s point guards, the Jazz won seven out of eight games and Mitchell was named Western Conference player of the week. It’ll be interesting to see whether the experiment with Mitchell at point guard might lead to a permanent positional change. But for now, Mitchell and the Jazz will have to focus their energy on stopping a Thunder team that ranks top 5 in rebounds and points.
Overall, my prediction for this game is that it will be very close. Donovan seems to be most efficient when playing point guard. However, he will be matched up against one of the most explosive point guards in the league. The Thunder have beat the Jazz three times so far this season and are going for the clean sweep. History is favoring the Thunder, but Utah has one of the biggest home-court advantages in the NBA. They will need it if they are going to take down the Thunder. However, I believe the Thunder will win this game 104-96.