Of the nine games on the NBA schedule for Monday, the matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz (9:00 p.m. Eastern) made be the most intriguing. In Russell Westbrook the Thunder have a point guard on track for a historic season, as he’s averaging a triple-double (30.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 10.4 apg). Yet despite this Westbrook won’t be starting in next month’s NBA All-Star game, and with the Thunder having four days off following a loss to Golden State Oklahoma City had plenty of time to not only stew over the loss by also rest and recuperate.
Monday night they’ll go up against a Utah team that boasts one of the NBA’s best defenses, anchored by center Rudy Gobert. Utah opened as a 6-point favorite, with that number dropping to either 5 or 5.5 points depending upon the sports book.
The point total, which opened at 202 points, is up to 203.5 points on most books with a couple having 204 according to OddsShark. OddsShark predicts a final score of 111-97 in favor of the Jazz.
While Utah has a 29-16 record and is 3.5 games ahead of the Thunder (25-19) in the Northwest Division, Oklahoma City has been the better team against the spread. Billy Donovan’s team is 23-21 ATS, but they’re 10-13 ATS on the road. And according to OddsShark, Oklahoma City is 3-6 ATS in its last nine road games. Utah, which is 21-23-1 ATS this season, is 12-10-1 ATS in home games (4-2 ATS in the last six home games).
When it comes to the point total, Oklahoma City is 18-24-2 with the OVER and Utah is also below .500 with a record of 22-23. Utah’s allowing just 95.3 points per game this season, which leads the NBA in scoring defense, and the Jazz also play a slower pace (30th in the NBA) than any team in the league. Guard George Hill and forward Gordon Hayward lead the way offensively for a team that has been efficient on offense, and Quin Snyder’s team is at its best when playing at the tempo that places even higher value on each possession.
Oklahoma City ranks ninth in pace, with the dynamic Westbrook pushing the buttons offensively. Tempo-wise this will be an interesting battle, but generally it’s easier to slow a team down than it is to speed one up. Also of note in this matchup is the fact that the Thunder could once again be without starting center Steven Adams, who as of Sunday was still in the NBA concussion protocol. Utah won’t have guard Rodney Hood, who’s out with a knee injury, meaning more minutes for veteran Joe Johnson.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma City +5.5 with the UNDER. With the uncertainty surrounding Adams, this is a tough game to pick. But with Westbrook and forward Enes Kanter being a valuable offensive option off the bench, the Thunder can keep things within striking distance against the Jazz.