Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder (-9.5, 198.5 o/u)
After stumbling at the start of the month, the Oklahoma City Thunder (49-22, 28-9 Home) will look to extend their win streak to six games tonight when they host the Utah Jazz (35-36, 13-23 Away) at Chesapeake Energy Arena (7:00 PM Eastern).
Quietly, the Thunder have put together five straight wins over the Blazers, Celtics, 76ers, Pacers, and Rockets. After dropping four of six to start March – including road games to both the Spurs and Warriors (the two teams above them in the West) – the win-streak has given the team some much needed confidence heading towards the postseason.
Head coach Billy Donovan would undoubtedly like to see his defense step up (OKC is giving up just over 103 PPG); but, in lieu of playing shut-down D, he’ll have to be content with the 119 PPG the offense has averaged over the last five.
While Kevin Durant leads the team in scoring again, much of OKC’s success is tied to the performance of Russell Westbrook. The dynamic point guard recorded his 15th triple-double of the season in the 111-107 win over the Rockets, improving the team’s record to 15-0 when he records a triple-double.
The Thunder have all but clinched a playoff berth at this point. The Jazz, however, look like they’ll be in a fight to the finish to reach the playoffs. They’re currently one game below .500 but still own the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings, half a game up on the Rockets. They recently helped their own cause with a massive 89-87 road win over Houston, rallying from 18 points down.
“It feels good to know we’re still in it,” said Jazz forward Derrick Favors to the Associated Press. “But we’re not in there yet, so we’ve got to continue to work hard, play hard and keep winning games.”
Favors had 17 points and 15 rebounds against Houston, including the game-winning dunk with just under two seconds left to play.
The win was Utah’s sixth in the last seven games.
This will be the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Jazz and Thunder. OKC won the previous three while covering the spread in two, but the o/u looks like the better option. The Jazz have the second-best defense in the league (96.4 PPG) and the total has stayed under in eight their last nine games in OKC. Utah coach Quin Snyder knows his team can’t run with the Thunder. He’ll try to slow the pace to keep his team within striking distance.
Pick: UNDER (198.5).
(Photo credit: JWay20 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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