Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has an idea about trying to stop Oklahoma City’s 1-2 punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on Tuesday at EnergySolutions Arena.
“Hopefully they have the flu,” he said.
Corbin was joking, of course, but the thought of facing Durant and Westbrook isn’t funny for a team hoping to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Oklahoma City is 9-3 in its last 12 meetings with Utah, including a 106-94 victory on Nov. 30.
In that easy win, Durant (25) and Westbrook (23) combined for 48 points and the Thunder shot 52 percent from the field.
“They are a tremendous team,” Corbin said. “... They are, if not the best, one of the best teams in the league and they are playing accordingly.”
Illness aside, what must the Jazz do to slow Durant and Westbrook?
“We have to make them work hard for everything they get,” Corbin said. “Every time they have the ball in their hands they have to see bodies — from strong side and weak side — because they are such good attackers.”
Hayward still sidelined
Gordon Hayward practiced Monday morning but is listed as doubtful against Oklahoma City because of a sprained shoulder.
Hayward, the Jazz’s No. 3 scorer, has missed eight games since suffering the injury in the final moments of a 114-110 overtime win over Indiana on Jan. 26.
Before practice, Hayward was hopeful of returning against the Thunder.
“I’d say there was a pretty good chance,” he told reporters. “... It’s been difficult — real difficult — to sit on the sideline and have to watch. You can’t really do much. So it will be good to get back out there.”
After practice, however, the Jazz issued a statement saying Hayward was unlikely to play.
His absence won’t help Utah’s chances against the Thunder, who have won four straight games by an average of 26 points.
“We miss his ballhandling,” Corbin said. “We miss the ability to put the ball in his hands — with that second group especially — to make plays for himself and his teammates. He gives is a little bit more versatility.”
Paul Millsap agrees: “He’s the only guy who can do some of the things he does. When we get him back, we’ve got another playmaker out there — guy who can shoot the three and score.”
No step back
Corbin disagrees with anyone who suggests the Jazz took a giant step backward in weekend losses to Chicago (93-89) and Sacramento (120-109).
“You just have to keep playing, man,” he said. “You have spurts when you are playing really well and spurts‚ hopefully not too long — when you aren’t playing as well as you want.”