Friday, November 7, 2008

Preview: Thunder @ Jazz

Tonight the Thunder are on the road to take on the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are 4-0 on the season with wins against the Nuggets, Trailblazers, and the Clippers (twice). The Jazz will be extra pumped up for this game as their coach, Jerry Sloan, has 999 victories as coach of the Jazz and will be the first coach to score 1,000 victories with one team. The Jazz would love to get that milestone victory in front of the home crowd, and after the tonight's game, their next five games are on the road. OKC will have a tough task ahead of them if they wish to spoil that party.

The Jazz are averaging 97.8 points per game this season while only giving up 85.5. The Thunder are averaging 83.8 while giving up 92.0. Those stats alone paint a grim picture for Oklahoma City. Add in the fact that Utah swept the series last season, and you have a recipe for disaster.

So how can the OKC win this game? The good news for Thunder is that Utah is just as pathetic from three land. Both teams are averaging just two 3's per game with the Thunder actually hitting a higher percentage (30.8 vs 21.1). The difference maker in the team's output this season is field goal percentage. The Jazz are making 47.5% of their shots from the field almost a full 7% better than the Thunder.

Assuming neither team corrects it's futility at three point shooting; this game should come down to which team shoots better from the field. To achieve this, the Thunder will first have to stop Carlos Boozer who is shooting 62.7% from the field so far this season (8 percentage points above his career average and 7 above his average over the past two). In addition, the Thunder's top three scorers (Durant, Green, and Westbrook) are going to have to step it up from their combined 40.2%.

In addition, Johan Petro is going to have to step it up. So far, he is averaging 6.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. These numbers just won't cut it from the starting center. Petro is getting out-rebounded by Green, Chris Wilcox, Nick Collison, and Earl Watson. Granted, each of those guys is getting more playing time, but Petro hasn't shown he deserves more. I know I pushed for Johan to start as the beginning of the season, but I'm starting to think that the Thunder should move Collison to center, Durant to small forward, and start Westbrook as the 2 guard. The Thunder recently signed another center (Stephen Hill) and declined to offer an extension to Petro by the October 31st deadline, so hopefully he is able to see the writing on the wall and pick up his performance.

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