Jazz-Thunder Preview

BY foxsports • March 24, 2016

The surging Utah Jazz moved into playoff position with their latest victory, but they'll have to figure out how to contain Russell Westbrook if they want to stay there.

No team has accomplished that lately against the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard, who seeks his fourth consecutive triple-double Thursday night and seventh of March.

Utah (35-36) rallied from an 18-point deficit for its sixth win in seven games Wednesday, and Derrick Favors sealed the 89-87 victory in Houston on a dunk with 1.6 seconds left. The Jazz moved one-half game in front of the Rockets for eighth in the Western Conference while improving to 2-1 on their season-high five-game trip.

"It feels good to know we're still in it," Favors said. "But we're not in there yet so we've got to continue to work hard, play hard and keep winning games."

A loss Thursday would let idle Houston back into the No. 8 spot because of the Rockets' superior Western Conference record.

The Jazz haven't won in their past nine visits to Oklahoma City (49-22) and have dropped all three overall matchups this season. The latest defeat, a 104-98 overtime road loss Dec. 13, came when Westbrook had just three triple-doubles to his credit this season.

He registered his 15th in a 111-107 win over Houston on Tuesday, the most in one season since Magic Johnson had 17 and Michael Jordan had 15 in 1988-89. Westbrook's six triple-doubles in March are the most in one month since Jordan registered seven in April 1989.

"That's just a blessing," Westbrook said. "Especially getting mentioned with those guys. Those guys are Hall of Famers. My job is try to help us win games and try to win a championship."

He is the last NBA player to post triple-doubles in four consecutive overall games, doing so from Feb. 24-March 5, 2015. Before that, Jordan pulled off that feat in seven straight in 1988-89.

Not surprisingly, the Thunder are 15-0 when he records one and 30-4 for his career. He's recorded four in Oklahoma City's current five-game win streak but has none in 25 career games against Utah.

He came close in a 111-89 road victory Nov. 23 with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Westbrook had 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Thunder's home win over Utah in December.

The Jazz haven't won in Oklahoma City since Oct. 31, 2010, and are 2-12 there all-time against the Thunder. Oklahoma City, 28-9 on its own floor, has won its past two home games as Westbrook has posted triple-doubles after losing four of five there.

Teammate Kevin Durant has a streak of his own with 56 consecutive 20-point games, matching a career high. That run began with 27 points in Utah on Nov. 23 and his return from a strained left hamstring.

"That's what I'm supposed to do. That's what they pay me for. They rely on me every night to be consistent, and I've got to be that way," he said.

Durant has scored at least 21 points in his last six games against Utah, averaging 31.7 in that stretch. He had 31 on 10-of-17 shooting in December and has failed to reach 20 in just one of 13 home matchups since the beginning of the 2008-09 season.