NBA Playoffs: Thunder Host Surprising Jazz

NBA Playoffs 2018

Jazz Head Into NBA Playoffs as One of NBA’s Hottest Teams

The Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder meet at Chesapeake Energy Arena Sunday afternoon.

TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (Utah), FS Oklahoma

Oddsmakers opened the Thunder as -3.5-point favorites versus the Jazz, while the game’s total opened at 204.5. The line is not OKC -4 and the total is 205.

The Jazz were 19-28 after a loss at Atlanta on Jan. 22. The team stormed back with a 29-6 mark down the stretch to seize the fifth seed in the West.  Their opponent, the Thunder, didn’t solidify their place in the playoffs until a win in the next-to-last game of the season.

Jazz are Primed or Upset in NBA Playoffs First Round

Fifth-seeded Utah’s turnaround roughly coincided with Rudy Gobert’s return from a knee injury and he was dominant at times during the stretch run, averaging 16.6 points on 68.2 percent shooting to go along with 12.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in March.

Utah’s turnaround roughly coincided with Gobert’s return from a knee injury. He was dominant at times during the stretch run. He averaged 16.6 points on 68.2 percent shooting to go along with 12.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in March.

The 7-foot-1 Gobert will be providing a rim-protecting presence to combat Thunder superstar point guard Russell Westbrook.

Gobert has also taken over as a leader after the departure of Hayward.

Utah leans on dynamic rookie guard Donovan Mitchell from time to time as well. Mitchell averaged 20.5 points in his first season. He did not show any signs of hitting a rookie wall. Mitchell scored above his average in 12 of the final 14 games of the regular season.

Retooled Thunder Look for NBA Playoffs Success

The fourth-seeded Thunder boast a trio of veteran stars. They are led by Russell Westbrook. He averaged a triple-double for the second straight season. The reigning NBA MVP did the same in helping Oklahoma City win three of four matchups with the Jazz. He averaged 22.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10 assists in the season series.

Following a first-round exit last season during Westbrook’s MVP campaign, Oklahoma City brought in forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for support. It took time for the chemistry to develop. They got there and a strong finish has the team feeling pretty good entering the postseason.

The Thunder won 14 of their final 21 games this season. Much of that late success came with the early-March signing of veteran Corey Brewer. He is questionable for the opener due to a sprained knee.

Westbrook rallied late to produce his historic triple-double average for the season again. George heated up offensively down the stretch while averaging 27.6 points and shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range in April.

Westbrook averaged 37.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 10.8 assists and 2.4 steals in five games of the first-round series loss to the Houston Rockets last season.

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Next up:
Utah at Oklahoma City Wednesday, April 18

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