nba
06.02.2024

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Utah Jazz Game Preview and Pick: OKC Exploits Weak Utah Defense Early

On Sunday night, the Utah Jazz became the latest team to mount a fourth-quarter comeback against the Milwaukee Bucks, and now, with their three-game losing streak snapped, they’ll remain at home to host the OKC Thunder. With an 8-2 record over their last ten games, the Thunder and their high-level defensive ability pose a tough matchup for Utah, especially early in the game.

Game Preview

Tonight’s meeting between the Jazz and Thunder is a matchup of duality in play style. On the one hand, you have the young OKC Thunder, who ranks 2nd in the league over the past two weeks in points allowed per 100 possessions in non-garbage time minutes (108.6). On the other hand, you have a Utah Jazz team that is 26th in that same category but 5th in average points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time on offense (121.8).

One of the reasons why OKC is 8-2 over their last ten games and the Jazz are 4-6 is because the Thunder are way more balanced of a team. The Thunder can rely on their offense if they need to, while the Jazz cannot rely on their defense at all. Allow me to back that statement with a simple stat: over the past two weeks, the Thunder rank 4th in point differential at (+10.8), and the Jazz rank 23rd at (-4.5).

Over their last ten games, the Utah Jazz have allowed at least 118 points in seven of them, and that number would likely be higher if the Bucks didn’t score just 13 points in the 4th quarter of Sunday night’s game. In that same ten-game stretch, Utah scored 123 or more points in eight of them, which again proves that they could catch fire on a nightly basis, and it still may not be enough to offset their defensive woes.

Utah has shown they can be beaten at their own game, and the most recent example of that came against the Thunder. On January 18th, these teams matched up, and the Thunder walked away with a 134-129 win. While 129 points are the most OKC has allowed over their last ten games, the Jazz allowed them to shoot 56% from the field and 44% from three.

Pick for the Game

Oklahoma City is currently listed as (-3) point road favorite for this matchup, but for my NBA betting pick, I’ll be taking their 1H spread of (-1.5). Over the last ten games, the Thunder rank 9th in the league in 1H NET rating while the Jazz rank 25th. That Jazz defense we’ve already touched on quite a bit is a big reason they are 3-7 ATS in the first half of their last ten games.

One of those ATS losses came to the Thunder, as they allowed 76 first-half points in that matchup. On average, the Jazz have allowed a league-high average of 63.2 first-half points per game over their last ten games. In that span, opponents have shot 41.7% from three and 49.2% from the field in the first half.

Meanwhile, the Thunder have allowed the third-lowest 1H field goal percentage over their last ten games. What separates the Thunder’s defense from the rest of the league is their ability to defend the paint, which is a significant advantage they have tonight. The Jazz have gotten 48.2% of their points from inside the paint over the last ten games, but in that span, only four teams have allowed fewer points in the paint per game than OKC (46).

Recap

  • Oklahoma City Thunder 1H (-1.5)(-105) on BetMGM

*odds subject to change

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