Game day preview OKC Thunder – Utah Jazz: two well balanced squads begin series

Donovan Mitchell, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Game 1 of the OKC Thunder series versus the Utah Jazz tips off at 6:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. CT).

Well, Thunder Nation, this is the moment all OKC Thunder fans have been waiting for. Sure, there were moments of angst this season, but the end justified the means.

A bit of luck worked in OKC’s favor on the final game of the season, resulting in the squad nailing down a home court seed. The Thunder avoid the two parties all Western Conference teams were running from (Rockets/Warriors). In round one, the goal is to get their playoff legs, finish the series quickly, and move on to the semi-finals.

Ah, and this is where the situation isn’t quite as simple. Of all the teams the OKC Thunder could’ve pulled, the Utah Jazz are the closest to a mirror image. No, the Jazz don’t feature superstars (although arguably rookie Donovan Mitchell is well on his way and Rudy Gobert is a defensive master). With all due respect to those two Jazz talents, the best player, in fact the best two players, are on the OKC Thunder.

Paul George told the assembled practice session media they haven’t met ‘Playoff P’ yet. And, if you recall, I’ve spoken of that very entity throughout the season. If ‘that’ Paul George shows up, this will be a far easier round one.

That said, the Jazz are by far the best defensive team in the NBA with the likely DPOY (the aforementioned Gobert). It sure would’ve been nice to have Andre Roberson for this series, but odds are if ARob hadn’t been hurt, the Thunder would likely be the third seed.

The 4-5 Series:

Although the OKC Thunder took the season series, the teams haven’t played each other since December. Since then the Jazz went on an incredible run, finishing the season with a blistering 29-6 record. OKC lost Andre Roberson to injury, and Utah traded Rodney Hood.

Suffice to say these teams are basically starting fresh.

Bottom line, this will be an exciting series and one likely to be a long series. In preparation for game one, the TI scribes have been working overtime to get Thunder Nation ready. Notably, an ice storm in Toronto caused some issues on my end (not to mention holding up the Raptors – Wizards tipoff) in terms of web access. Therefore, this isn’t my normal deep dive (apologies). Instead, I’m serving up some amazing work by the team to get this up in a timely fashion.

The next segment features key elements the OKC Thunder should be focusing on to win the series. As the series progresses, the TI team will continue to offer additional insight via our round table segments, pregame previews, analytical looks comparing OKC to Utah players, film room articles breaking down game footage, postgame grades, 5 takeaways, and relevant practice soundbites.

Enjoy the game tonight, and feel free to reach out and comment on the articles whether it be to ask a question, request something in particular or just to share your opinion.

With that, let’s dive in to the preview.