Two teams right in the thick of the Western Confernece playoff picture will go head-to-head when the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder face off Saturday afternoon. The contest will be the first of eight "seeding" games for the Thunder, and the second for the Jazz, who re-opened their season with a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.
Utah and OKC split their two matchups during the regular season, with the Jazz winning in October and the Thunder getting the best of Utah in December. Entering the matchup on Saturday, the Jazz sit at fourth in the West while the Thunder are 1 1/2 games behind in the fifth spot. Considering how close things are in the West, playoff positioning for both teams could change significantly depending on how they perform during their seeding games. While the seeding games are a formality for some squads that already have their postseason position locked up, that's certainly not the case for Utah or Oklahoma City.
Ahead of the contest, here's everything you need to know about Jazz vs. Thunder.
Jazz:Utah got off to a solid start in Orlando with a 106-104 win over the Pelicans on Thursday night, and will look to continue that momentum against the Thunder on Saturday. The Jazz are only two games behind the second-place Clippers in the standings, so they could potentially make a big jump in the standings if they play well during their seeding games. The on-court chemistry between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert will also be something to continue to keep an eye on as the games go on.
Thunder: This will be the first seeding game for Oklahoma City, so some rust is to be expected. Like Utah though, the Thunder could make a big jump in the standings if they play well during their seeding slate, so they should be thoroughly motivated. They will benefit from the return of premier wing defender Andre Roberson, who hasn't played an NBA game since January of 2018 following a severe leg injury and ensuing rehab setbacks. Roberson's return, in addition to Chris Paul's veteran leadership, will be major keys for the Thunder in Orlando.
On a neutral site this one could go either way, but the fact the Jazz already have a game under their belt should work in their favor a bit. They already got an opportunity to work off some of the rust and get accustomed to the feel of playing a meaningful game in an empty arena, while the Thunder will have to deal with all of that for the first time.Pick:Jazz +1.5