Thunder-Jazz Preview

While the Utah Jazz are pleased with their five-game winning
streak, there’s little doubt they’ve left themselves plenty of room
for improvement.

The Jazz hope for a much smoother road to a sixth consecutive
victory Monday night when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Utah (7-3) has outscored opponents by only 3.8 points during its
five-game streak. That slight margin is partly due to the Jazz
needing to rally for all of those victories, overcoming second-half
margins as vast as 22 points, which they did in a 116-114 overtime
win at Miami on Tuesday.

That remarkable streak continued Saturday, as Utah erased a
16-point halftime deficit before Deron Williams hit the winning
shot with 0.8 seconds left in a 96-95 victory at Charlotte.

“We haven’t panicked – we just keep fighting,” Williams said.
“We know we’ve still got a chance. When we’re down 20, we talked
about getting it down to 10. When we got it down to 10, we were
like, ‘Let’s get it going.’ So we did.”

The winning streak is part of a 7-1 run that includes a 120-99
win at Oklahoma City (5-4) on Oct. 31.

The Northwest Division rivals haven’t met in Salt Lake City
since April 6 when Williams scored a career-high 42 points, hitting
the deciding jumper with 1.1 seconds left in a stirring 140-139
overtime win.

Williams was vital in the most recent matchup with the Thunder,
collecting 16 points and a season-high 15 assists.

He’s also come up big during the current winning streak,
averaging 24.4 points and 10.8 assists after getting 17 and nine,
respectively, against the Bobcats.

Williams is developing strong chemistry with Paul Millsap, who
has emerged as Utah’s top scorer at 21.9 points per game after
Carlos Boozer left in the offseason to join Chicago. The forward
had 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting Saturday.

Millsap scored 30 points and pulled down a season-high 16 boards
at Oklahoma City last month.

The Thunder may be in for another rough night defensively after
losing 117-104 to San Antonio on Sunday. They’re allowing 105.8
points per game to rank 26th in the NBA after allowing an average
of 98.0 points to finish fourth in the Western Conference last
season.

“We’re having trouble stopping the basketball,” coach Scott
Brooks said. “When you play against a good team, when you make one
mistake they capitalize on it. That’s what a good team, an
experienced team will do to you.”

Kevin Durant is looking for an improved effort after scoring 23
points – his second-lowest total of the season – against the Spurs
after topping 30 points in each of the previous three contests –
two wins.

The forward, Oklahoma City’s leader with an average of 28.2
points, has put up 34.8 points per game over the last four meetings
with the Jazz.

Durant had 45 points in his most recent visit to Utah, but had
his shot at the buzzer blocked by C.J. Miles.