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.