At 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Oklahoma is replaying the December 9th win over the Jazz. Here are three keys to why the OKC Thunder won.
The last time the OKC Thunder stood on the Chesapeake Energy Arena hardwood it was March 11th and the opponent was the Utah Jazz. The ball never was tipped off because Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The fall out included the game being postponed and the NBA getting suspended before night’s end.
That game will forever be earmarked as the shift in the season of the pandemic and shift into a new reality in sports. The hope is the season will return if tests become widely available and everyone can have certainly they’ll be safe. If that happens the hope is this will be the first game on the docket since a win by the OKC Thunder over the Jazz would push them ahead of Utah into fourth place.
Although there won’t be a true home-court advantage it will provide a psychological edge if nothing else.
Tonight, Fox Oklahoma serves up a replay of the Thunder – Jazz game from December 9th. OKC collected an impressive victory considering they were on a back to back and on the road.
It also marked the third consecutive win in a row including an overtime victory over the Wolves and a road win the night prior in Portland.
As you tune in to the game here’s three things to keep in mind that were key to the Thunder victory.
Jazz defense no longer their calling card:
For years the Jazz dominated teams defensively and often won with scores below 100 points for both clubs.
That isn’t the identity of this new iteration of the Jazz. Much of the reason for the shift is likely due to the addition of youngster Donovan Mitchell. Additionally, the franchise added Bojan Bogdanovic as a free agent.
Both possess stronger offensive skill sets and while Mike Conley hasn’t exactly thrived in Utah this feels like a changing of the guard so to speak in Utah.
Thunder guards are a handful:
Throughout their 64 games and especially since Thanksgiving the trio of Thunder point guards has caused problems for many opponents. Chris Paul is easily the best leader OKC has ever had and his play on the court is like having a coach on the floor directing traffic. He knows precisely when to apply pressure or take over scoring and when to get his court mates fired up on the defensive end.
This match was no different as CP3 was frequently the player who stopped a surge by the Jazz. Dennis Schroder had a particularly strong offensive game with superb shot selection and gave pause to the belief the Jazz possess a deep squad since no one had an answer for him.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued to display his growth but his shot selection was a bit off in this outing.
Overall the trio accounted for 63 points of the 104 points in the winning effort.
Also of note, the highlight reels for December 9th all led off with Paul turning Gobert inside out and making him look silly.
Adams finally gets the better of Gobert:
There is no shame in getting outplayed by the Defensive Player of the Year. That said it’s always seemed odd that Gobert and Nikola Jokic have seemingly got the best of Steven Adams. This night, despite playing in a back to back game on the road it was Adams who got the best of Gobert.
Although Rudy’s stats are stronger (19 points, 17 rebounds) his tallies were more a factor of the Thunder defending to force Gobert into being the primary option.
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Conversely, Adams was the key to setting screens and opening the floor for his guards and he still collected a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds as the fourth or fifth scoring option. The Big Kiwi also added four assists and four blocks while posting a net differential of plus 14 (Gobert was a minus nine).
Also of note…
The Thunder came out of the break on fire posting a 34-21 frame to take a 17 point lead into the fourth quarter. However, many of the best highlights occurred in the final frame. The CP3 on Gobert play took place in the fourth and Dort was particularly effective at stymying Mitchell in this frame.
Fox will air the game twice this evening with the first showing at 6:00 p.m. CT and the second at 9:00 p.m. CT. In addition, they’ll lead into the game with The Best of the Thunder Insider at 5:30 p.m. CT and between the game replays air The Kiwi Way at 8:00 p.m. CT.