Under different circumstances, the Jazz might be able to chalk up tonight’s game with Oklahoma City as an easy win.
Not this time, though.
In their quest to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket, the Thunder (56-21) can’t afford to let up. With just five games left on their regular-season schedule, they trail San Antonio by a game in the standings.
So, don’t look for OKC coach Scott Brooks to rest stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka tonight when they meet the Jazz (41-37).
And don’t look for Utah to let up either.
With just four regular-season games left, they currently sit in the No. 8 spot in the West bracket, holding only a slight edge over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tonight’s game means a lot to both teams, which isn’t always the case in April.
“They’re fighting for their playoff lives, just like we’re all fighting for playoff position,” Brooks said. “It’s a great time of the year, a great time of the year to play important games in April.”
OKC is led by Durant, whose 28.4 scoring average equals New York’s Carmelo Anthony as the best in the NBA.
Tonight’s game with be the fourth regular-season meeting between the Jazz and Thunder. OKC leads the series 2-1, with the Jazz’s only win coming Feb. 12 in Salt Lake City.
In three games vs. the Jazz this season, Durant has averaged 27 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Jazz are 29-10 at home this season. They are led in scoring by center Al Jefferson, who averages 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
In three games vs. OKC this season, Jefferson has averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.
“To have home court advantage throughout the playoffs, I guess, is always a good advantage for any team,” Jefferson said. “So, I’m pretty sure if (the Thunder) have a chance to get it, they’re going to get it.”