In a matchup of clubs jockeying for playoff position, the Jazz - coming off a three-day layoff - look to avoid being swept by the Thunder franchise for the first time in 27 years Tuesday night.
Utah (50-27) is tied with Dallas, Denver and Phoenix for second place in the Western Conference.
In the Northwest, the Jazz and Nuggets lead the Thunder (48-28) by 1 1/2 games for the top spot. Of those teams, only Utah has a record below .500 within the division at 7-8.
The Jazz’s problems in the Northwest include three losses to Denver as well as two to Minnesota, owner of the West’s worst record. Utah is 0-3 against Oklahoma City, one of eight teams to win at EnergySolutions Arena this season.
A win would give the Thunder their first sweep in the season series since winning all five matchups in 1982-83, when they were based in Seattle. Oklahoma City, winner of six of seven overall, is also trying to hold on to a 1 1/2-game lead over San Antonio for fifth place in the West.
“That’s something that we can’t worry about,” said Kevin Durant(notes), who became the Thunder’s single-season scoring leader in a 116-108 win over the Timberwolves on Sunday night. “We’ve just got to go out there and control what we can control, and that’s going out there and playing hard.
“These last six games, we’ll let the chips fall where they may. If we give it all we’ve got, then we’ll be satisfied.”
Oklahoma City is facing a Utah team that should be recharged and eager to be back home. The Jazz have not played since a 106-92 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Utah has won nine straight at home, averaging 113.7 points. The Jazz averaged 110.3 points in going 12-5 in March before struggling versus the Lakers.
The league’s second-best shooting team at 49.1 percent, Utah has been held to 46.7 percent while averaging 16.7 turnovers against the Thunder this season.
Durant has 2,258 points and has moved past Dale Ellis for the franchise’s season scoring record. Ellis had 2,253 points in 1988-89.
Durant has helped the Thunder more than double their win total after going 23-59 last season. He believes Oklahoma City will be tough to beat during what will be its first postseason appearance in five years.
“There’s another season,” Durant said. “There’s always two seasons in the NBA - which is the regular season and the playoffs - and some people don’t make it. Unfortunately we didn’t make it these last two years but we have the opportunity this year.
“It starts over, so you’re 0-0 once you go to the playoffs.”