Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder
NBA: 6:30 PM EST
April 15, 2018
The Utah Jazz will travel to central Oklahoma to take on the new-look Thunder in Game 1 of what has the potential to be an extremely competitive first-round series. OKC won the season series 3-1, but the teams haven’t met since December 23rd, before the Jazz underwent one of the most stunning turnarounds in recent memory.
The Jazz have a variety of pieces that guided them to an improbable 29-7 finish to the season, including standout rookie Donovan Mitchell, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, and sharpshooter Joe Ingles. They’ve rebounded from the loss of their best player, Gordon Hayward, with a surprising and impressive 48-win season.
Oklahoma City, on the other hand, may have actually underperformed against expectations, after acquiring star forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in a splashy offseason. Mainstay Russell Westbrook made history by averaging a triple-double for the second consecutive season, but the Thunder limped offensively down the stretch and were in danger of missing the playoffs before a nice final week propelled them to the 4th seed in the West. Of particular note is Carmelo Anthony’s career-low 40% shooting from the field.
This is a very tricky matchup to predict, as the Oklahoma City crowd is always passionate and will be fiercely supporting the Thunder, but the Jazz are well-coached by Quin Snyder and are equipped with a defense that has the talent to force Westbrook and Co. into a myriad of jumpshots. I’m backing the underdog in Game 1, and look for an upstart Utah side to rise to the moment and surprise the Thunder in Game 1.
Our Free Betting Pick: Utah Jazz +3.5