Thunder-Jazz Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 10, 2012
Despite their recent overall struggles, the Utah Jazz have been one of the better home teams in the Western Conference this season. Their next opponent, though, has experienced success recently in Salt Lake City. The Oklahoma City Thunder will try to wrap up a five-game road trip with their third consecutive win at EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night. Utah (13-11) has dropped four of five games in February but only one of those losses came at home. The Jazz, 11-4 in Salt Lake City this season, defeated the Los Angeles Lakers at home Saturday but proceeded to go winless on a two-game trip to New York and Indiana. Utah managed to rally from a 21-point deficit in Indiana on Tuesday to take a lead in the fourth quarter, but scored four points over the final 3:46 of a 104-99 loss to the Pacers. "On the road, you just can't afford dig yourselves a hole like we did," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "You spend so much energy trying to get back. We did take a lead, which is a positive, we just didn't make the plays at the end." The Jazz haven't made enough plays against the Thunder in recent meetings, as they've lost the last three games in the series and six of eight. Oklahoma City (20-6) has averaged 114.0 points during its win streak against Utah - nearly 12 points more than the Jazz have scored per game. The Thunder are 2-2 entering the finale of their current five-game trip, despite having scored at least 106 points in all four of those contests. They had an eight-point lead with 4:48 remaining Thursday against Sacramento but scored just six points from there en route to a 106-101 defeat. "We had a good lead and in the last five or six minutes we've been good all season," coach Scott Brooks said. "But the turnovers hit us (Thursday). We played with good effort, but we didn't play with a controlled effort." Russell Westbrook, who was named a reserve on the West All-Star team earlier Thursday, topped 30 points for the second straight game with 33. Kevin Durant added 27 and Serge Ibaka tied a career high with 10 blocks, but Oklahoma City let the Kings take 22 more shots, a season-high 99. "It was a tough loss, but we have to move on," Durant said. "We have a game (Friday in Utah), and we can't harp on this one." Durant has averaged 31.3 points over his last seven games against Utah, highlighted by a 45-point effort in a 140-139 overtime loss on the road April 6, 2010. Westbrook has been similarly effective in the last two meetings between the clubs, averaging 32.0 points on 65.6 percent shooting. Jazz forward Paul Millsap is averaging 25.5 points on 64.1 percent shooting in his last four games against the Thunder. The teams will meet again Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
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