Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Pick
Utah Jazz (32-25 SU, 29-26-2 ATS) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (37 - 20 SU, 33-24 ATS)
When: Friday, February 22nd, 2019 – 9:30 PM ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, OK
By: Keith Franks, NBA Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UTAH +3.5 / OKC -3.5 (Intertops Sportsbook)
Power Rankings: Oklahoma City -5
Takeaways from Oklahoma City and Utah’ Most Recent Games
The Jazz step into this contest on the heels of a loss on the road at the hands of the two-time defending champions the Golden State Warriors on February 12th. Despite losing 115-108, the Jazz were able to foster their third consecutive cover as they closed as a nine-point underdog.
Valentines’ Day was not sweet for the Thunder as they were handed a 131-122 loss in New Orleans by the Pelicans in their most recent outing before they headed into the All-Star break. The Thunder closed as a 4.5-point favorite and were nonetheless upset by NOLA to end a four-game winning and a four-game cover streak for OKC.
How the Public is Betting the Oklahoma City and Utah Game
Presently, 68% of the consensus like the Thunder here spotting the points. However, the line movements tell another story as the money seems to be heading in the opposite direction. The Thunder are spotting a half-point less compared to the opening number of Oklahoma City as a four-point favorite.
The last time these two teams met in December the game was nothing short of a thriller. Utah hosted Oklahoma City and the Thunder were able to pull off a 107-106 upset as a two-point underdog.
Heading into this contest neither basketball team has expressed any prevalent injury concerns.
Rest Advantages and Concerns
For both teams this will be their first game back from the All-Star break. For Oklahoma City, this will be their first contest of a two-game home-stand that concludes tomorrow when they host the Sacramento Kings. Utah will be back home in Salt Lake City tomorrow to shoulder a two-game home-stand that concludes on Wednesday against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz will be squaring off with the Dallas Mavericks when they get back home tomorrow.
Can Utah’s Rugged Defense Thwart Oklahoma City’s Potent Offense?
Utah can use one distinct advantage to make their presence felt in this game: their defensive play. The Jazz sit fourth in the NBA in scoring defense as they give up just 105.9 points per game. Conventionally, the Jazz defense seem like a fantastic antidote to slow down Oklahoma City’s fifth-ranked scoring offense which averages 115.4 points per game. The question is how the Jazz will address Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook who continues to create history?
Can Westbrook Continue His Triple-Double Streak?
The 2018-19 season has been one of record-breaking streaks. First, there is James Harden who has now extended a 30-game streak to 32 games and moved to second all-time in that feat ahead of Wilt Chamberlain. Now there is also Russell Westbrook who has had an uncanny ability to generate triple-doubles at a whim. Westbrook has set a record as he has already produced a triple-double in 11 consecutive games and will look to earn his 12th here against Utah. Overall no one has had an answer for the 2016-17 MVP as he is averaging 21.9 points per game, 13.5 assists per match, and 13.3 rebounds per contest over the span and has 24 triple-doubles on the season.
There are two betting trends that have caught my attention. The Thunder have covered against the bookies in the last four meetings between both teams. For Over/Under players, the Under is 17-7 ATS in the previous 24 contests between these two sides.
Keith’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Oklahoma City -3.5
I like the Thunder here as they generally play at a higher level at home. This season, the Thunder stand at 20-7 SU on their own court and they have won their last six contests in Oklahoma City. The Jazz are a .500 basketball team in games outside of Salt Lake City (14-14 SU road record) but they have lost three of their last five away games against teams that are all presently playoff-bound that play in notoriously hostile environments (Golden State, Portland, and Milwaukee). In each of these losses, the Jazz were defeated by no less than seven points (two of which were by double-digit margins). The Thunder fit that mold as OKC is historically a notorious place for home court advantage working against opponents and they are also the No. 3 seed currently in the Western Conference Standings.
I like the Thunder’s prospects of extending their home winning streak to seven games and covering while they do so. Outside of the obvious trouble that Utah will have in solving the problem that is Russell Westbrook, the Jazz are 15-19 SU against teams with a record greater than .500. Conversely, the Thunder are 16-11 SU against teams with a .500 record or better. The Utah defense will be exposed by not only Westbrook but by All-Star Forward Paul George who has quietly put together a fantastic 2018-19 campaign in his own right (28.7 points per game, 8 rebounds per contest, 2.3 steals per game, and 4.1 assists per contest.). The Thunder bounce back from the let-down loss they endured in New Orleans heading into the All-Star break and win this one emphatically.