NBA Basketball

Thunder look to complete season sweep of Jazz

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz have been trending in opposite directions since the Thunder's wild 148-147 double-overtime home win Feb. 22.

The Jazz have gone 5-2 since the loss to keep pace in a tight Western Conference race, sitting in a virtual tie for sixth place entering Monday's game against the Thunder in Salt Lake City.

The Thunder have gone 2-6 and are struggling to hold on to one of the top four spots in the West entering the final month of the regular season.

Both teams are coming off Friday road losses where 3-point struggles played a factor.

Utah fell by 10 at Memphis, making 18 3-pointers but needing a franchise-record 48 attempts to get there.

Oklahoma fell by eight to the Los Angeles Clippers after going 11 for 44 from beyond the arc.

Against the Clippers, both of the Thunder's stars -- Paul George and Russell Westbrook -- fouled out late, as did Steven Adams.

After the game, George criticized the officiating after the Clippers took 46 free throws -- a day after Portland took 47 against Oklahoma City.

"Someone's got to look into this," George said. "It's getting out of hand where we somehow just walk teams to the line, and there's nobody that gets more contact -- if I don't speak for myself, I'll speak for Russ -- there's nobody that gets more contact than Russ going to the basket. And it's just crazy. I don't understand it. It's a piece of (expletive) being on that floor and we're giving everything we got. We're playing hard. We're getting grabbed, scratched, clawed, held, shoved and there's nothing for it."

George was fined $25,000 by the NBA the next day for the criticism.

The Thunder have won all three meetings this season, including a 107-106 win in Utah on Dec. 22 where George had 43 points and 14 rebounds.

"We've got a big one Monday and we've got to be ready," Utah guard Donovan Mitchell said.

But while George has averaged 39.7 points per game against the Jazz this season, he has struggled in three games since returning from missing three with a sore shoulder, shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and making 25 percent of his 3-pointers during that stretch.

Utah figures to be thin at point guard, with both Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto ruled out.

Rubio also missed Friday's game with left hip tightness. Neto will be sitting out his sixth straight games with left hamstring tightness.

Both Rubio and Neto were limited participants in Sunday's practice.

Dante Exum hasn't played since Jan. 5 with a left ankle sprain and bone bruise but recently was fully cleared to return to practice. He is listed as probable.

A piece of the Jazz's recent success has been strong bench play since the All-Star break.

"Just us coming in with a lot of energy," Utah forward Royce O'Neale told the Salt Lake Tribune. "It starts with Jae (Crowder) and Kyle (Korver), or sometimes Jae and myself; we all gotta come out and be ready to play, come out and pick up where that first group leaves off."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 10, 2019

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