Jazz-Thunder Preview

The Associated Press

As good as they've been this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are freshly removed from a humbling reminder of some improvements they can still make.

They'll try to get back on track Wednesday night when they host a Utah Jazz team locked in a tight battle for a playoff spot.

The Thunder own the third-best record in the NBA at 47-17, but they're chasing San Antonio for home-court advantage in the Western Conference. A 105-93 loss to the Spurs on Monday put another game between the two in the standings, but coach Scott Brooks will try to use it as a teaching tool for his club.

"Normally teams don't push us out so we can't run our offense," Brooks said after the Thunder had 17 turnovers and 16 assists. "They did a good job of being physical with us. We're usually in attack mode and we're able to get better catches and better execution. That's something we can get better from."

Kevin Durant scored 26 points and Russell Westbrook had 25, but only one other Oklahoma City player scored in double figures and the team's bench managed 15 points - well below its average of 29.4 that ranks toward the bottom of the league.

The Thunder may have an easier time at the offensive end against the Jazz, who are allowing opponents to shoot 45.6 percent from the floor and are one of the worst in terms of interior defense, surrendering 43.3 points in the paint per game.

Utah (33-31) has lost seven of nine but beat Detroit 103-90 at home Monday to remain tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth spot in the West.

The Jazz have struggled badly away from home, losing eight of nine to give them a 10-23 road mark. They might have a better chance to earn a win outside of Utah if Mo Williams continues his return to form.

Williams, who missed 32 games with a thumb injury, scored 20 against the Pistons after totaling 18 points in his first three games back.

"I don't know how long it will be before I get fully back," he said. "But this is a good game for me confidence-wise. You miss a lot of games like that and you want to get your confidence back. You want to be able to be aggressive but you don't want to be aggressive and hurt the team."

Though Williams is healthy, Utah may again be without power forward Paul Millsap, who was sidelined Monday with a bruised right quad and patella. Derrick Favors was unimpressive starting in his absence with six points, but reserve Enes Kanter could help fill the void given his strong play of late if Millsap can't go.

Kanter had 14 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes Monday and is averaging 15.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 68.3 percent shooting - all well above his season marks - in his last six games.

These teams have split two meetings this season with each winning at home. Durant scored 58 points and shot 19 of 29 in those contests.

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