Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Pick & Prediction JANUARY 18th 2024

With heavy hearts, the Utah Jazz will retake the court in Salt Lake City on Thursday night to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Jazz were due to host the Warriors on Wednesday, but the contest was postponed after Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died from a heart attack he sustained at a team dinner in Utah on Tuesday night. Milojevic, a respected NBA mentor and Serbian basketball legend, was 46.

Tributes and condolences spread around the sports world following the news.

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, who hails from Finland, was one of many who expressed shock via social media.

“Awful news today,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “My deepest condolences to Coach Milojevic’s family and the Warriors organization.”

The Jazz issued a statement: “The Utah Jazz organization expresses our deepest condolences following the tragic passing of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and the entire Warriors family during this difficult time. Milojevic was a well-respected and beloved member of the NBA family. We join the Warriors, the NBA, and basketball fans everywhere in mourning this incredible loss. He will be greatly missed.”

The rescheduled date for the Warriors-Jazz game was not immediately announced, but the Jazz noted that tickets for Wednesday night will be honored. Golden State doesn’t play again until Friday night at home against the Dallas Mavericks.

Moving forward, Utah will now look to increase its winning streak to seven. The Jazz have won 12 of 14 games to improve to a season-best two games over .500.

Utah fell to 7-16 when it took a 134-120 loss at Oklahoma City on Dec. 11. The Jazz have gone 15-4 since then. Not coincidentally, that was the last of eight consecutive games Markkanen missed due to a hamstring injury.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander totaled 30 points and seven assists in only three quarters to lead the Thunder to that win, which wasn’t as close as the 14-point final score might indicate. Oklahoma City led by 36 points before Utah scored 45 in the fourth quarter.

The Jazz haven’t played since routing the visiting Indiana Pacers 132-105 on Monday. Markkanen paced Utah with 32 points and 10 rebounds, an effort that prompted Pacers coach Rick Carlisle to compare the Jazz star to one of his former players, Dirk Nowitzki.

“A long way to go,” Markkanen said of getting to the level of the Mavericks’ Hall of Famer. “So it’s nice for him say and it gives me more motivation to get better.”

The Thunder dropped two straight road games against the Los Angeles teams prior to heading to Utah. After falling 112-105 to the Lakers on Monday, the Thunder lost 128-117 to the Clippers on Tuesday. In the latest defeat, Jalen Williams scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor, while Luguentz Dort and Gilgeous-Alexander each had 19 points.

Oklahoma City trailed by 12 points in the fourth quarter before rallying for a 115-114 lead on a Williams 3-pointer with 3:37 to play. However, the Clippers outscored the Thunder 14-2 the rest of the way, with Paul George scoring 11 of his 38 points in that span.

“We gave ourselves every chance to win that game and they outplayed us in the final 3 1/2 minutes,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s how you learn about ourselves. It’s exciting to know that we’re drawing teams’ best punches out of them.”

–Field Level Media

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