Bricktown Beat

Thunder vs. Jazz Preview. Who Should We Monitor in the Thunder’s Home Opener?

Oklahoma City Thunder (1-0) vs. Utah Jazz (1-1)

Tip Off: 7pm CST

How To Watch: FSOK

Overview:

The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming into Monday’s home opener fresh off a victory against the Charlotte Hornets 109-107. The Thunder are currently sitting atop the Western Conference, being the only undefeated team at 1-0. For the Jazz they are heading into the Peake after falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday 116-111. This will be the first home game for the Thunder since March 11, fittingly against the Jazz. This game was postponed due to Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 result, sparking what eventually led to the NBA’s seasons postponement.

Game Notes:

The Thunder have two players listed as out tonight:

Ty Jerome (Left Ankle Sprain)

Trevor Ariza (Personal)

The Jazz have no players ruled out for Monday’s contest, but their is one game-time decision.

Derrick Favors (knee soreness)

Starting Lineups:

Key Matchups:

Hamidou Diallo vs. Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson has been easy-cooking ever since joining the Jazz last season. His high-volume production he provides on the offensive side of things is unparalleled coming off the bench. Thus far in his two games this year, Clarkson has averaged 19 points a game in just 22.5 minutes.

Clarkson has the keys to the offense in the second unit, and with our current rotation, he will be matched up by none other than Hamidou Diallo. Diallo is not known for his defensive game, but a strong performance from that side of the ball is crucial for a Thunder win. Dort may be called upon to take on the duties of Clarkson, but it is inevitable that there will be a Clarkson-Diallo matchup sometime during the course of the game. Those possessions will be pivotal to OKC’s success.

Mike Muscala vs. Jazz Bigs

Muscala is not known for his interior defense, but he is sneaky good guarding in the paint. Muscala really did not have to handle too much responsibility playing defense inside on Saturday as Charlotte only had one true center on their roster with Cody Zeller out. The Jazz have a two-headed monster at center with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors most likely playing in this game. Both bigs are dominant inside and they may be called upon to do some damage down low with Muscala in the game.

Muscala has been one of the Thunder’s best players, dropping double digits in all of his preseason games and pouring in 14 points on 5-8 shooting in the Thunder’s opener. If he is able to establish himself on defense his ability to stretch the floor will give the Thunder so many options inside, as Gobert/Favors would be forced to stay at the perimeter.

Players to Watch:

UTAH- Donovan Mitchell- SG

Mitchell has always been a prone to heat up against the Thunder, dating as far back as 2018 when he led the Jazz past OKC in the playoffs. Mitchell will likely be put up against Lu Dort a majority of this game, but if he is able to get in rhythm, it may be a long game.

OKC- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander- PG

SGA put up an impressive 24 point, 7 rebound, and 9 assist game in Saturday’s opener on 8-20 shooting. SGA put up impressive stats despite not being able to find any stroke from beyond the arch, going just 1-6 from deep.

It is not much of a question as to whether Gilgeous-Alexander will be able to find others for good looks, or cash in on close shots. The real enigma lies on if he can create shots outside, if he can expect to see SGA blanketed by multiple Jazz defenders.

OKC- Darius Bazely- PF

Bazley will have the ultimate size advantage against the Jazz. Royce O’ Neal, the Jazz’s starting power-forward is only 6’4″, Bazley on the other hand is 6’8″. Bazley was extremely impressive in the opener dropping 15/10, and if he is able to use his size and athleticism to his advantage, he may be the Thunder’s leading scorer.

Honorable Mentions:

Theo Maledon- PG

Maledon struggled in his debut tallying 4 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers. But the real reason behind these struggle lie on faulty rotation construction (I will go over this in a later post.) Maledon should shine if Coach Daigneault surrounds him with players that mesh his playstyle. We will see if Maledon will improve under a similar rotation, or a new one.

Luguentz Dort- SG

Dort struggled to make any impact from three in the opener, shooting just 1-4 from downtown. His game was fairly passive as he had many opportunities to shoot wide open threes, but opted to drive inside or kick the ball out.

Despite his shooting woes, he piled up 15 points on what consisted of drive-ins and free throws. If he can be a threat from outside against the Jazz he may be the x-factor in this game. Defensively we know he can guard guys like Mitchell, but bringing the whole package on offense as well will devastate the Jazz.

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