Thunder vs. Jazz: Trends to Watch in Western Conference Showdown

Tyler PosloskyContributor IIIFebruary 12, 2013

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant goes for a slam dunk against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 25.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant goes for a slam dunk against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 25.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Oklahoma City has been dominant this season, especially on offense. Riding a four-game winning streak and holding second place in the Western Conference, 3 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City arrives in Utah for a conference showdown tonight.

The Thunder and Jazz are two NBA teams trending in complete opposite directions. The Thunder are on a solid winning streak and are 16-9 away from Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Led by forward Kevin Durant, who is second in the NBA with an average of 28.9 points per game, Oklahoma City (39-12) boasts the top offense in professional basketball, averaging over 106 points per contest. The Thunder are shooting 82.9 percent from the charity stripe, tops in the NBA. Additionally, the Thunder are tied for first in 3-point field goal percentage, converting long-range jumpers 39.2 percent of the time.

Point guard Russell Westbrook has amassed 176 assists on the season, averaging over eight per contest and playing a key role in Oklahoma City’s offensive success this season.

On the other hand, the Utah Jazz (28-24) are struggling to maintain consistency. If the regular season ended today, the Jazz would be the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. Surely, they’d like to build some momentum from here on out.

The Jazz have lost two straight, including a tough 93-89 defeat to Chicago, Feb. 8, and three of their last five games. The Jazz had triumphed in 10 of 11 home contests before losing to Chicago and then getting thumped by Sacramento on Saturday.

Utah's offense has been proficient thus far, averaging over 98 points per game, but the defense has been pedestrian at best, allowing an average of 98.8 points to opponents. Rebounding has also been an obstacle for the Jazz, who average 41.9 boards per game, 18th best in the NBA.

The Thunder triumphed 106-94 in the first meeting against the Jazz on Nov. 30.

With Oklahoma City’s rugged offensive attack, Utah will certainly have its hands full, especially when it attempts to match up with Durant and Westbrook on both ends of the floor.

And if Utah can get back on track on its home floor, its recent home success could lead them to an upset.