Jazz Host Favors, Thunder In Season Opener
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz will open their 2021-22 campaign Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Jazz are coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history having finished the 2020-21 season with the best record in the NBA at 52-20 before being eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the playoffs.
The Thunder meanwhile are still in the midst of a long-term rebuild as they continue to develop their talented backcourt of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort.
Jazz Building Off Late Preseason Momentum
Jazz coach Quin Snyder took a conservative approach to the preseason letting several of his starters rest in anticipation of the regular season. Rudy Gobert missed each of the team’s first two preseason games and played in only two halves total over the four games stretch.
Joe Ingles played only the first half of game three, while Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley also sat out at different points during the preseason.
However, in the team’s final exhibition against the Milwaukee Bucks last Wednesday the Jazz appeared to be in midseason form.
Six players scored in double figures including Jordan Clarkson who finished with a team-high 18 points as the Jazz downed Milwaukee 124-120.
Thunder Looking For Growth
The Thunder finished last season with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, though the final standings don’t reflect the amount of talent the team has on its roster.
Oklahoma City lost 26 of their final 29 games in order to improve their draft pick, but despite their efforts, the Thunder ended up dropping to the sixth pick in the draft where they selected Australian Josh Giddey.
Giddey was impressive during the preseason finishing as the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the three-point line.
The Thunder were led by Dort who averaged 14.7 points per game while shooting an eye-popping 55 percent from the floor and 62 percent from the three-point line. Dort has been a thorn in the Jazz side during the first two years of his career having averaged 20.5 points, 1.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in four meetings.
In a bit of cruel irony, the Jazz will match up with longtime fan favorite Derrick Favors when they face the Thunder
Favors helped oversee a total Jazz rebuild after the departure of Deron Williams in 2011. After resigning with the Jazz in 2020, he was traded to the Thunder to trim the team’s luxury tax bill over the summer.
The Big Question
The most pressing question for the Jazz as they enter the season is whether they can find time for rookie Jared Butler in the rotation. The Baylor product finished the preseason as the Jazz leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and leading assist man (4.3 apg) but appears to be the 10th man in a traditional nine-man rotation.
“To the extent that Jared’s focus is on achieving something or showing something or playing X minutes or doing these things or that,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder cautioned, “that’s taking the focus away from what he needs to be doing which is just trying to get better.”
Will Snyder create room for the Jazz rookie in the regular rotation, or will he be left to find time filling in the cracks of the rotation? That’s a question for Jazz fans to monitor against the Oklahoma City Thunder and beyond.
The Jazz and Thunder will tip-off at 7 pm MT. The game will be broadcast KSL NewsRadio and The Zone Sports Radio Network and televised on AT&T Sports Net.
Utah Jazz Scoreboard
Utah Jazz Team Leaders
Utah Jazz Standings