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- The Oklahoma City Thunder will get key reserve Kevin Martin back tonight after a one-game absence. Martin did not play in the Thunder’s 97-69 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday because of flu-like symptoms. Not that Oklahoma City needs much of a boost after winning four straight games, but it’ll be nice for the Thunder to have Martin back. He’s averaging 15.3 points per game, which is third-best among reserves who have played at least 35 games. “He’s given them the punch off the bench that they lost when they lost (James) Harden,” said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. “He’s a tremendous scorer. He’s a guy you have to guard, so it’s one less guy that can focus on (Kevin) Durant and (Russell) Westbrook. He’s found his niche, accepted his role and he’s dynamic scorer. He’s effective for them.”
- The Jazz sure could use a lift with the return of sixth man Gordon Hayward, but it isn’t happening tonight. Corbin was hopeful on Monday that Hayward, who is recovering from a right shoulder sprain, could play against the Thunder tonight or the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. But Hayward couldn’t make it through a full practice on Monday, and won’t return until after the All-Star break. “I don’t know if it was a setback,” Corbin said of Hayward tweaking his shoulder in practice after a collision. “We wanted to see if he could make it through a full practice. He got through three-fourths of it. We thought if he got through practice yesterday and felt good he’d have a chance to play today and tomorrow. But we don’t want to take a chance of him getting hurt again. He has to get through a practice before he gets a chance to play.”
- Utah’s Mo Williams is making progress, at least theoretically, in returning to the court. He is in New York to have the pin removed from his surgically repaired broken right thumb. The Jazz will have a better idea of when he can return after the pin is out.
- It is terrible timing for the Jazz to be shorthanded in their backcourt and in ball handlers with the Thunder in town. Oklahoma City has won its last four games by an average of 25.3 points while shooting 50.1 percent. Thunder coach Scott Brooks acknowledged that his team is playing quite well right now. “We’re moving the ball as well as we have all season long,” Brooks said. “We’re making shots. Thabo (Sefolosha) hits nine 3’s the last two games. That’s such a big bonus for us. He’s developed that shot. Defensively, we’re still holding teams under or right at 42 percent. That’s what we want. We want to give ourselves a chance to win on the defensive end. We’re playing good, there’s no question. When we play the last four games the way we played, it’s pretty hard to beat us. But that has nothing to do with tonight. We’ve always been a team where we focus on the next game.”
– Andrew Aragon