The Oklahoma City Thunder roll into Salt Lake City with pressure mounting in the play-in race.
Oklahoma City sits just above Dallas at 10th in the Western Conference and faces a must-win matchup against the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
With the Mavericks winning on Wednesday, OKC is in danger of sliding out of qualification for the four-team tournament. And while Utah has nothing to play for at this point, it hasn’t rolled over for opponents down the stretch, covering the spread in four straight games despite going 1-3 straight up.
I break down the spread and Over/Under total for tonight’s tilt and give my best NBA picks and predictions for the Thunder vs. Jazz on April 6.
Thunder vs Jazz best odds
Thunder vs Jazz picks and predictions
It’s time to see if the Oklahoma City Thunder have the marbles to make it into the postseason.
Tonight’s game in Utah is the ultimate gut check for this squad, which must shake off a three-game skid and the pressure put on it by Dallas’ win last night. And in those tough spots, you look to your superstars to make the difference.
All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has to have a massive game for OKC if it’s going to avoid the late-season swoon. This matchup with a short-handed and short-statured Jazz lineup is perfect for him to erupt for plenty of points.
Gilgeous-Alexander has a point prop of 32.5 (Over -133) for tonight’s stop in Salt Lake City. He’s topped totals of 31.5 points in each of the past three games and I have him projected for as much as 36 points, while more conservative estimates have him at 33.25.
The Canadian product is pushing OKC forward despite the losing skid, with two 39-point showings and a 32-point effort in those defeats. He’s shooting better than 54% from the floor in this span and will be able to get high-percentage looks against a Utah interior missing two 7-foot starters.
Gilgeous-Alexander ranks tied for third in the NBA in points in the paint with 16 per outing, upping that to more than 18 PITP the past 15 games, and scoring 52 points inside the past three contests. In his two showings against Utah this season, SGA has posted efforts of 39 and 38 points, with 36 of those tallies coming in the key.
The Jazz were a pretty bad team at protecting the paint to begin with — ranked 25th in PITP allowed with 52.2 given up an outing on the year — but missing rim-protecting rookie center Walker Kessler and fellow 7-footer Lauri Markkanen rolls out the red carpet for Gilgeous-Alexander to get to the rim and top his point total Thursday night.
Some books have already jumped up to 33.5 points O/U for SGA, so shop around for the shorter number.
My best bet: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Over 32.5 points (-133 at 888Sport)
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Thunder vs Jazz spread analysis
With Oklahoma City in must-win mode after Dallas’ comeback win over Sacramento last night, books opened this spread at Thunder -5.5, which has since climbed to -6.5 as of Thursday morning.
Utah looks as though it should go quietly into the night, with All-Star Lauri Markkanen out along with rookie center Walker Kessler, but the Jazz have been feisty to finish off the schedule.
Utah has covered in four straight games and five of its last six outings, taking the fight to some top-tier teams as big underdogs. It most recently took the L.A. Lakers to overtime, losing 135-133 as 11-point home pups.
The Thunder are wobbling to the finish line on a three-game losing skid, which has dropped them to 10th in the West and just ahead of Dallas in 11th thanks to holding the tiebreaker with the Mavs. Oklahoma City just hasn’t shown up on defense during this slump, allowing point totals of 121, 128, and 136 in those losses.
OKC scored two wins over the Jazz last month, both coming at home. The Thunder won 129-119 and 130-103 in back-to-back matchups with Utah, covering as favorites of -6.5 and -1 (with star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out). However, they did fall in Salt Lake City back on February 23, losing 120-119 in overtime, which pushed with the 1-point spread.
The Thunder are 20-17-3 ATS on the road this season but just 1-6 ATS when installed as road chalk.
Thunder vs Jazz Over/Under analysis
This Over/Under hit the board at 236.5 points and has since moved to 238, with early play on the Over.
The Jazz have had defensive issues all season and are extra small inside with 7-footers Markkanen and Kessler out of action. Utah has only one win in its last eight games, allowing an average of 124.3 points in that span. That’s led to a 5-3 Over/Under count in those contests.
The Thunder watched the Over hit in their last two outings and have struggled on defense during this three-game slide. Granted, those two outings were against Phoenix and Golden State, and Utah brings much less firepower to the floor.
OKC will want to set a quick pace and push the ball in transition, with plenty of points in the paint. It is among the top transition attacks and faces a Utah defense that struggled when opponents look to push the basketball.
Points in the paint could be plenty, with the Thunder attacking the rim for 55.3 PITP (third most) per game, and the Jazz giving up the 25th most points inside — and that’s with Kessler and Markkanen protecting the rim. The Lakers, another team that thrives on getting into the key, scored 62 points in the paint Tuesday.
These foes topped the total in their last two meetings in Oklahoma City, playing Over closing totals of 231 and 236 points. They stayed Under a closing number of 239.5 in February, despite the game going into overtime.
Thunder vs Jazz betting trend to know
The Over is 12-3-1 (80% Overs) in Jazz’s last 16 games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Thunder vs. Jazz.
Thunder vs Jazz game info
|Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
|Thursday, April 6, 2023
|9:00 p.m. ET
|Bally Oklahoma, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain