More NBA bubble action here as the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Utah Jazz. It'll be the first game for OKC, while Utah toppled the Pelicans on Thursday night. Oddsmakers have Oklahoma City as a slight favorite for this one, which will be televised by ESPN.
Jazz Pick Up First WinThe Utah Jazz were having a great season before the break, and they picked up where they left off with a thrilling 106-104 win over the Pelicans in their restart opener on Thursday. While it was of course nice to start things off with a victory, it wasn't all positive. The Jazz looked disjointed on offense at times, and they shot only 8-34 from downtown. If we're being real, they only won because New Orleans was playing extremely sloppy. The Pelicans were up eight going into the fourth quarter, but then they only scored 17 points in the final frame since Zion Williamson was on the bench.
Aside from Jordan Clarkson the Jazz only got four points from the rest of their bench, which isn't sustainable moving forward. If they want to pick up a second straight win, guys like Georges Niang can't shoot 0-6 from the floor. Utah's schedule was pretty soft before the shutdown, with four of their final six games coming against the Pistons, Knicks, Cavaliers, and Wizards, so playing a legit playoff team like Oklahoma City here could come as a bit of a shock to their system. They also weren't their sharpest offensively right before the break, as they scored only 92 points in their final game against Toronto. The Jazz will likely try to win another defensive struggle here, and Rudy Gobert's paint protection will be the X-factor.
Thunder Set To DebutThis will be the Thunder's first game back in action, and I'm expecting big things from them in the bubble. Oklahoma City was arguably the hottest team in the league before the shutdown, winning 17 of their final 22 games. Nobody thought they'd be able to compete after they traded Russell Westbrook, but Chris Paul and Billy Donovan have been pulling off something magical together. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a legit star, Danilo Gallinari is having a very solid season, and Dennis Schroder has been fantastic off the bench while averaging 19 points per game.
Andre Roberson’s first game back in 30 months and he drains the three🔥🔥— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 24, 2020
Chris Paul is loving it pic.twitter.com/e36Yy2fKi7
Under these unusual circumstances, I think team chemistry and culture are going to matter a lot, and that's good news for the Thunder. They've been playing with a certain rhythm all year long, and the team has really gelled together. Sometimes Paul has the tendency to slow down a bit late in the year as he's gotten up there in age, but now OKC will be getting a fresh version of their floor general for the stretch run. I keep hearing coaches talk about how important communication and talking is now that there are no fans making noise, and that's an area where Paul excels. He's been barking out orders up and down the floor during scrimmages, and I think that gives the Thunder a noticeable advantage in this format.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Thunder are:
- 7-1 in their last 8 games vs. Jazz
- 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall
- 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 games playing on 1 days rest
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I'm taking the Thunder on the money line, and I love this play. The Jazz may have beaten New Orleans, but they didn't actually play that well and probably would've lost had Zion Williamson not been on a minutes cap. Outside of Jordan Clarkson their bench scored just four points, and their lack of depth isn't going to cut it here. OKC has an incredible team culture and great chemistry, which will benefit them in this unprecedented format. Chris Paul is going to thrive in these bizarre circumstances, and I think this Thunder team has a ton of upside.
Prediction: Thunder ML
Full-Game Total Pick
The under also makes some sense here. The Jazz shot just 8-34 from downtown in their opener, and in their last game before the shutdown they mustered only 92 points. Both of these teams are going to want to win this one with defense, and Utah has already played a full game to shake off the defensive rust. These are two gritty teams, and I think this is going to be a very hard-fought game. The under is also 20-8 the last 28 times these teams have played each other.