Jazz vs Thunder – NBA Pick for December 5th
- Spread: Thunder -7
We have just three games on the NBA schedule on Tuesday night, though the marquee matchup of the evening will go down in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder will host the surging Utah Jazz. Despite having lost Gordon Hayward via free agency and having to deal with a number of injuries, the Jazz has won 6 straight games to climb to 13-11 on the season.
The Jazz absolutely demolished the Wizards on Monday night by the score of 116-69. Rudy Gobert returned from a knee injury, and the Stifle Tower contributed 4 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 21 minutes of action. Gobert’s minutes will likely be limited until he can work his way back into basketball shape, but his early return from the injury is incredibly encouraging news for Utah.
The dominant storyline of the last week or so for the Jazz has been the dynamic play of young guards Donovan Mitchell and Alec Burks. Philly’s Ben Simmons may be the presumptive favorite for Rookie of the Year at this point, but Mitchell is mounting a charge of his own. The Louisville product has been scoring at will of late. In his last 5 games, Mitchell has poured in 21, 41, 24, 16 and 24 points.
Most rookies are rather timid, but Mitchell isn’t shy about jacking up as many shots as he can find. His 14.8 shots per game leads the Jazz and he takes charge of the offense whenever Rodney Hood is sidelined. Hood, who has missed the last several games with ankle soreness, is questionable again tonight.
The man that has made the most of Hood’s absence has been Burks, who has almost been a forgotten man in Utah for the last couple of years. Injuries have slowed Burks’ development, but the 26-year-old appears to be in the midst of a breakout campaign. Burks has scored 79 points in the last 3 games alone, including 27 in the aforementioned demolition of the Wizards on Monday.
The Jazz has scored 110 or more points in 4 of their last 5 games, which is crazy for a team with a reputation for playing a slow, defensive-minded style. Things may slow down a bit now that Gobert is back in the lineup, but the Jazz are just firing on all cylinders right now.
Slow Starting Thunder
As for the Thunder, they have been slow out of the gates. Most expected this team to be a serious challenger to the Warriors near the top of the Western Conference, but they’ve taken time to gel. Incorporating a couple of high-usage players like Paul George and Carmelo Anthony alongside Russell Westbrook is a tall task for any coach, and Billy Donovan still hasn’t quite figured out how to play all 3 of them together.
That said, OKC has picked up back-to-back wins over the Timberwolves and Spurs. The victory over San Antonio isn’t overly impressive, as the Spurs were without several starters. Still, wins are wins. OKC is just 10-12 to this point and their offense has been brutally stagnant at times.
One aspect of the game on which OKC can hang its hat is defense. The Thunder has the league’s third-best defensive rating (100.3), which has effectively kept them afloat amid offensive struggles. The matchup between Steven Adams and Gobert should be a fun one tonight, as neither big man is afraid to bang in the post and get his hands dirty.
OKC checks in here as a fairly sizable favorite with the Jazz playing the second half of a back-to-back. That said, Utah’s starters weren’t forced to exert themselves too much thanks to the blowout win. They should be fairly fresh coming into this one tonight. The Thunder is vulnerable and 7 points just looks a bit hefty.
You can also take the over on 197 points, especially considering the way Utah’s offense has been clicking of late.