Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors.
Utah Jazz Team Overview
The Jazz just slipped into the playoffs last season as the 8-seed in the West with a record of 36-30. Their playoff experience didn’t last long as the San Antonio Spurs made quick work of them sweeping them in four games.
The Jazz are young and on the rise though. Last year was their first full season post-Deron Williams and they did a good job managing a playoff birth after trading away such a superstar.
Utah will be without Devin Harris next season and are replacing him with Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye. They also drafted Kevin Murphy.
The greatest strength of the Jazz is their big men Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. That’s a solid core to have and they can present mismatch problems for a lot of teams.
If a few other young players begin to step up for Utah, they could climb their way up a little in the Western Conference standings.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Jazz three times last season and beat them twice. They played the first two times in a span of four days with the Thunder winning 101-87 in Utah on Feb. 10 and then 111-85 at home on Feb. 14.
Kevin Durant scored 19 points and took just 10 shots in the first meeting. Russell Westbrook led the way with 28 points while James Harden added 11 off the bench.
At home for the next game Harden led the way with 22 while Durant added 21. No starter played more than 30 minutes as the game was easily in hand for OKC.
The Jazz beat the Thunder in Utah in the final meeting on March 20 97-90. It was the fourth straight win for Utah at the time who was playing very well. They shot 47 percent from the field for the game while holding the Thunder to 42.3 percent shooting.
Durant had 18 points on 6-for-22 shooting while Westbrook had 23 and Harden 17.
Durant averaged less points vs. the Jazz than any other team in the league except for the Bucks, scoring 19.3 per game on .435 percent shooting.
Westbrook averaged 22.3 points per game and was very efficient shooting .571 percent from the field and .444 percent from deep.
Harden averaged 16.7 points per game and shot a blistering .538 percent from three vs. Utah.
The Jazz had the 14th best offense in the NBA last season in terms of points per possession. They posted up 17.1 percent of the time and were 10th best in the league on those plays. The Thunder were a very good defense vs. post-up plays last season ranking 4th in the NBA.
The Jazz were only 24th in the league on spot-up plays and 29th in the league in the pick-and-roll while turning to that type of play just 10.6 percent of the time.
Utah was weaker defensively ranking 23rd overall in the league. They were 28th vs. the pick-and-roll and 27th vs. isolation plays. They were 8th best in the league vs. post-up plays but the Thunder posted up very little last season.
OKC is not a very good matchup for Utah. The Jazz have some size but the Thunder have no trouble matching that.
The curious stat is how much Durant struggled against the Jazz despite Gordon Hawyward matching up with him most often. It’s not a knock on Hayward but you’d expect Durant to really improve his scoring numbers vs. Utah next season.
The Jazz didn’t make a lot of changes this offseason and will be relying mostly on player progression to see an improvement in their record. That is no guarantee as a lot of teams in the West have improved their rosters and are looking to jump Utah in the standings.
You have to honor that Durant struggled against the Jazz and that is a good sign for them in this particular matchup. The Thunder play Utah four times next season first on Nov. 30 in OKC, then in Utah Feb. 12, then in OKC March 13 and finally in Utah April 9.
The Thunder can beat the Jazz without huge nights from Durant although given the matchup, you would expect him to be poised for some big improvement vs. Utah next season. If that’s the case then the Thunder should have no trouble winning this season series and perhaps even sweeping it.