The Oklahoma City Thunder are Utah to take on the Jazz in these teams final matchup of the regular season. The Thunder are 3-0 in this series, but they have won by 9, 1, and 1 in these three games. The final game was a double-overtime game in which Paul George hit a game-winner with less than 2 seconds on the clock. These teams also met in the Western Conference Playoffs last year, where we saw the Jazz take the series 4-2. These teams are very competitive with each other and this game sets up to be a great one.
Thunder Gaining Health
The Thunder should be at close to full-strength after Paul George returned last week. George was dealing with shoulder soreness, but he played a back-to-back after an overtime game after returning, so I think it is safe to say that he should not be out with this particular injury again. The only concern is that George has shot poorly in recent games and it is possible that this injury is causing this. In the month of March, George is shooting 31% from the field. YIKES. Now, they have had a few days off and he supposedly feels good enough to play, but I am skeptical of his health until he shows me something. During this stretch, the Thunder have struggled. They are 3-8 in their last 11, which is a concern for them heading down the stretch run. Since George has returned, he has scored the ball at a decent rate, but a lot of that is volume scoring and free throws.
Utah Fighting Hard
The Jazz are dealing with a strange list of injuries that may clear up a bit before this game. In their last game, the Jazz had to run Donovan Mitchell at the point guard position because all three of their true point guards were injured. Both Raul Neto and Ricky Rubio are ruled out for this game, but Dante Exum is expected to play in this game. I assume they will start Dante at the point and slide everyone down in the rotation with Mitchell at the 2 and Ingles to the three. This would leave Royce O’Neal out of the starting lineup. It is possible they decide to keep Mitchell at the point, but I think that is is much more likely that they want him at the 2.
Barring the double-OT matchup, Russell Westbrook has struggled to score a lot in this matchup. Most of that is likely due to the presence of Rudy Gobert on the inside. Russ has really struggled shooting this season and that has forced even more drives. Gobert is one of the toughest guys in the league to finish over, so I think that this trend is more likely to continue than not. Paul George has had 40+ inn two of the three games in this matchup and the Thunder will need him to carry the load yet again, which may be tough with the shoulder injury. The Jazz have been fine as a team in this spot, but they really do not have anyone on the team that loves this matchup. Donovan Mitchell leads them in scoring in these games, but it’s not much different than any other matchup this year.
Jazz Top Thunder
The biggest concern I have in this game is Paul George’s shooting ability. I mentioned above how much this team has leaned on him in tough matchups and I haven’t seen him play well in a while. When those struggles are paired with injuries, it really tends to scare me off of guys. I think this will be another close game, but I expect the Jazz to cover the -3.5 here.