Friday, March 24, 2023
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NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder (28-29) at Utah Jazz (29-31)

Lauri Markkanen, a forward for the Utah Jazz, described his first All-Star experience as “surreal.” While he could have utilized different words, Oklahoma City Thunder monitor Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had an outlook on the same way.

Gilgeous-Alexander particularly found the All-Star Game segment in which LeBron James soared to stop his attempt at a dunk to be surreal. During the high-scoring contest that saw a total of 359 points Sunday night in Salt Lake City, it was a rare defensive effort by either All-Star team.

To exact his vengeance, the Thunder star will have to wait a week. On March 1, the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Oklahoma City. However, he has four games before that matchup.

Gilgeous-Alexander and Markkanen’s regular teams will compete against one another on Thursday night in Salt Lake City as NBA play resumes, fresh from their entertaining and special weekend as teammates on Team Giannis.

With a 28-29 record, the Thunder begin the final stretch in 10th place in the Western Conference standings. After the regular season, the play-in round is limited to the top 10 teams in each conference, with the 7-10 seeds participating.

With a 29-31 record, Utah returns to the lineup 11th, half a game behind Oklahoma City.

In his brand-new NBA home, Markkanen had the time of his life participating in the All-Star game. The Finnish star impressed Jazz fans by scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 26 minutes after being elevated to the starting lineup due to a number of injuries.

Even Markkanen took the fact that he was selected last among the starters in the pregame draft positively.

In ten minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander, who was selected fifth among reserves for the All-Star Game, scored nine points, had seven assists, and pulled down two rebounds. The experience was “super fun” for him.

Gilgeous-Alexander said that his first All-Star bucket, a 3-pointer, is one of the highlights of his young NBA career, in addition to the memory of being blocked by James.

The Thunder played their final game before the break, scoring 29 points. In Oklahoma City’s 133-96 home victory over the Houston Rockets, he only saw three quarters.

The Oklahoma City and Utah matchup on Thursday will be the first of three in the next two weeks. On March 3 and 5, the teams will play a two-game series in Oklahoma.

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