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"They Are Locked In" | With Its Postseason Hopes On The Line, Utah Hosts Oklahoma City On Thursday

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

Entering the final three games of the regular season, the Jazz's postseason hopes are on life support. It's a relatively simple scenario, one Utah loss or one Oklahoma City win and the Jazz can start planning their respective summer vacations. 

Utah will have a chance to stave off elimination for at least one more game when they host the Thunder in a massive showdown on Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MT. 

What's made the Jazz so entertaining all season long is that they've grown into one of the league's most resilient and battle-tested teams. With their fate hanging in the balance — and the odds continuously stacked against them with injury problems — Utah has refused to back down from anyone. 

"Our guys, they prepare to go out and win every night," Hardy told reporters following Tuesday's heartbreaking loss to Los Angeles. "No matter what, they have had the attitude of going out all season and making the most of their opportunity. … They never knew when those opportunities would come, or when they would stop coming. The players have continued to play hard and pull for each other."

Make no mistake, Hardy deserves a lot of credit for the team overachieving this season based on preseason projections. But if you ask him, it's not overachieving for the Jazz — he always believed there was something special about 'Team 49.'

"I'm with these guys every day. … I see how they interact with each other, I see how they prepare," he said. "They're preparing every night to win, they're not just coming out here to play. … They are locked in in the film sessions, they ask questions in the film sessions. They're fully engaged in walkthroughs and shootarounds. … The way they talk to each other in the locker room, the way they carry themselves."

Although Utah has stayed alive in its push for the postseason, the Jazz have been snakebitten by the injury bug as of late. 

Leading scorer Lauri Markkanen has only played in four of Utah's last 10 games, dealing with a left hand injury. Jordan Clarkson has missed the last month with a sprained finger on his left hand, and Collin Sexton missed 18 straight games before returning two nights ago against the Lakers. 

Yet none of that has stopped the Jazz from competing night in and night out, and Hardy expects the same over the final three games of the year.

"I'm not surprised at all because that's their intent every night. … We've had an attitude all season that when people are out or lineups change, it's just about making the most of your opportunity," he said. 

STATS
Utah (36-43, 22-17 home / No. 12 Western Conference)
Offense
*117.1 Points Per Game (No. 6 in NBA)
*115.6 Offensive Rating (No. 8 in NBA)
Defense
*117.8 Points Per Game (No. 24 in NBA)
*116.0 Defensive Rating (No. 24 in NBA)
Individual
*Lauri Markkanen: 25.6 points | 8.6 rebounds | 1.9 assists | 39.2% 3P-shooting
*Collin Sexton: 14.3 points | 2.9 assists | 2.0 rebounds | 39.3% 3P-shooting
*Kelly Olynyk: 12.2 points | 6.1 rebounds | 3.6 assists | 39.1% 3P-shooting
*Talen Horton-Tucker (Last 10 Games): 20.2 points | 6.3 assists | 5.2 rebounds

Oklahoma City (38-42, 15-25 away / No. 10 Western Conference)
Offense

*116.7 Points Per Game (No. 8 in NBA)
*113.7 Offensive Rating (No. 21 in NBA)
Defense
*116.4 Points Per Game (No. 19 in NBA)
*113.2 Defensive Rating (No. 11 in NBA)
Individual
*Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 31.4 points | 5.4 assists | 4.8 rebounds
*Josh Giddey: 16.6 points | 7.9 rebounds | 6.1 assists
*Jalen Williams: 14.1 points | 4.5 rebounds | 3.3 assists | 35.8% 3P-shooting

KEY MATCHUP
*Ochai Agbaji vs. Jalen Williams
— After getting off to slow starts in their rookie seasons, Agbaji and Williams have really emerged over the second half of the season — even more post All-Star break. Agbaji is averaging 14.8 points on 41.8% from three over his past 10 games, while Williams is putting up 17.6 points on 42.3% shooting from deep over the same span. They also both get the job done defensively, which should make for a really entertaining battle. 

INJURY REPORT
Utah
OUT | Lauri Markkanen (left hand contusion)
OUT | Collin Sexton (left hamstring - injury maintenance )
OUT | Jordan Clarkson (left hand - fourth finger sprain)
OUT | Rudy Gay (low back soreness)
OUT | Walker Kessler (concussion protocol)
Oklahoma City
QUESTIONABLE | Luguentz Dort (Right Shoulder; Strain)
OUT | Chet Holmgren (Right Foot; Surgery)
OUT |  Aleksej Pokusevski (Left Knee; Contusion)
OUT | Kenrich Williams (Left Wrist; Scapholunate Ligament Surgery)

BROADCAST INFORMATION
Time:
 7:00 p.m. MT
Location: Vivint Arena |Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The Zone Sports Network