Jazz return to OKC for first time since historic March visit

The last time the Utah Jazz were in Oklahoma City, the sports world -- and the world at large -- was about to change significantly.

On March 11, Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 before his Jazz were scheduled to play the Thunder.

That game was postponed, soon after the NBA season was suspended and the rest of the sports world followed, elevating the pandemic into the American consciousness.

"The whole evening was surreal," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said not long after last season resumed in the summer. "That game was a unique set of circumstances that we'll never see again."

On Monday, more than nine months after Gobert's positive test, the Jazz return to Chesapeake Energy Arena to face the Thunder in Oklahoma City's home opener.

While the OKC roster features just five returning players from last season, Utah is much the same.

That includes Gobert, who has been a thorn in the Thunder's side.

Gobert played a big role in helping the Jazz eliminate Oklahoma City in the first round of the 2018 playoffs. No one remains on the Thunder roster from that team.

The Jazz (1-1) are coming off a 116-111 home loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

"We have to come with a better sense of urgency from the tip," veteran point guard Mike Conley said. "We have to be better than that. I think we will. We'll learn from it."

Monday's game is the second of 10 road games in the first 14 games for the Jazz.

Oklahoma City (1-0) is coming off a 109-107 win at Charlotte on Saturday, a game where the Thunder blew a 13-point lead in the final two minutes before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's jumper with less than two minutes left elevated them to victory.

It was the Thunder's first win under coach Mark Daigneault, who replaced Billy Donovan in the offseason after Donovan left to coach Chicago.

After the win, Daigneault's players gave him high marks for his performance, especially during that final two minutes where things were slipping away.

Gilgeous-Alexander compared Daigneault to Doc Rivers, who Gilgeous-Alexander played for with the Los Angeles Clippers at the start of his career.

"Personally, I don't see no difference," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "That says a lot about Coach Mark. Composed. We, myself, almost gave the game away. But (Daigneault was) super composed, kept our heads up, kept us confident. He was our leader down the stretch, even though things weren't going the right way and just (stayed) in the right frame of mild -- cool, calm, collected."

After being a complementary piece in his first three seasons, Gilgeous-Alexander is now the face of the Thunder's franchise.

"I do feel really comfortable in this role I'm extremely blessed to have," Gilgeous-Alexander said.

Thunder guard Ty Jerome missed Saturday's opener with a left ankle sprain and remains day-to-day. Jerome, the lone player that remains with Oklahoma City from the offseason trade of Chris Paul, missed all three preseason games with the injury.

--Field Level Media