All That Jazz Again For Thunder
By Randy Renner
Being divisional opponents the Thunder and the Utah Jazz already knew each other fairly well but this season they getting even more familiar.
The Thunder and Jazz are getting ready to play each other for the fourth time overall since the last week of training camp and the second time in just a couple of days.
The teams met in Salt Lake City in the preseason and then again on November 23rd and again on Friday night. All Thunder wins, all out in Utah. Tonight the Jazz come to The Peake.
Every year the Thunder have one home and home mini-series with another team. Sometimes the games are even back-to-back on consecutive nights rather than with a day off in between as in this instance.
Longtime Thunder fans might even remember it was on one of those same opponent, back-to-back situations that the team changed coaches. P.J. Carlesimo was fired right after the Thunder were blown out by the then New Orleans Hornets 13 games into the 2008-09 season. The next night in New Orleans Scott Brooks was the Thunder's interim head coach.
No such drama these days, in fact the Thunder come into tonight's game playing some of their best basketball of the season. They're won eight of their last 10 and over basically that time frame the defense has played particularly well.
After allowing at least 100 points to opponents in 10 of their first 12 games the Thunder have given up 99 or fewer in nine of their last 11. Things have been even better during OKC's current four game winning streak which has seen opponents score just 91.8 points on 41.8 percent shooting.
"I think we're getting better defensively," head coach Billy Donovan told reporters after Friday's win in Salt Lake. "But, I don't think on either end of the floor we're exactly where we want to be. But we are moving in a positive direction."
The Thunder blew out the Jazz in that first regular season meeting 111-89 but after Utah went on a late run the Thunder had to rely on last minute heroics from Kevin Durant to come away with a 94-90 win on Friday.
Who knows what's in store tonight but the Jazz will once again be without center Rudy Gobert whose missed the last five games with a sprained left knee.
The Thunder have won five straight home games and are 10-3 overall at The Peake this season, the Jazz have lost five of their last seven on the road.
Tipoff is set for 6:10 and as usual the Thunder will wear their "sunset" alternate uniforms.
You can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma and follow our live tweets from the arena beginning at about 3 o'clock on the Twitter feed page here on the website.
We'll also have a full video postgame report including comments from Billy Donovan and players shortly after the game.