HOW THUNDER DEFENDS THE JAZZ
Five fast facts on Oklahoma City and Utah:
1 The Thunder limited the Jazz to 89.5 points per game in four meetings in the regular season, its second-lowest opponent scoring average behind Chicago’s 74. The Jazz aren’t exactly setting the league on fire offensively, ranking 15th in points scored per 100 possessions (106.2).
2 The switches may be less prevalent against Utah. Unless he’s rolling, the urgency to get to center Rudy Gobert above the free throw line won’t be as dire, as Gobert does all of his offensive damage around the rim. The Thunder won’t be afraid of Gobert popping out for spot-ups or 3-pointers: 388 of his 444 field-goal attempts came within five feet of the rim this season.
3 Utah guard Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz in scoring at 20.5 points per game on 17.2 attempts. The next closest Jazz player in points is Gobert (13.5). More importantly, the next closest Jazz players in attempts are Jae Crowder (10.9 per game) and Ricky Rubio (10.7), both sub-42 percent shooters. Joe Ingles has been one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters this season (44 percent), but is limited in creating his own shot.
4 Much of the heavy lifting falls on keeping Mitchell from getting to the rim, where he’s finishing at 63.9 percent, excellent for his size. An issue for OKC: In previous matchups against Utah, the Thunder had Andre Roberson defend Mitchell on 78 of his 182 possessions used, or nearly 43 percent. Russell Westbrook was the next closest with 38 possessions. Between Paul George and Westbrook, someone has to step up on the stout rookie, who bounced back with a strong six games in April after a March slump.
5 The Thunder gives up the sixth-most 3-point attempts per game (30.6) in the league and the Jazz has burned them from deep to start games before. Keeping Ingles from open corner 3 looks is key, but the Thunder will be more comfortable letting Rubio bomb away than giving up layups to Derrick Favors and the imposing Gobert off penetration.