After Monday night’s disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked to bounce against the Utah Jazz in Chesapeake Arena. Coming into the game, the Jazz trailed the Lakers by a half game for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot, giving plenty of incentive to the men out of Salt Lake City.
From the outset, this game was very sloppy and out of control. Randy Foye hit two three-pointers to give the Jazz an early advantage, but such luck would be short-lived. Russell Westbrook had his way with any-and-all Jazz defenders, effortlessly backing his men down and hitting easy jumpers. Kevin Durant could not have started much slower, scoring only 2 points on 1/3 shooting, but again, Westbrook led the way with 9 points while hitting 4 of 6 shot opportunities. OKC led 29-19 after one.
The second quarter brought much of the same from Durant, as he was turnover prone and couldn’t buy a bucket. He racked up six turnovers in the first half, looking visibly frustrated for much of the first two periods. Westbrook continued shooting well, while the Jazz completely fell apart at the seams. They turned the ball over often and went long stretches without a bucket. The half came to a close with the Thunder up 51-28, despite Durant scoring only 8 points on 2/7 shooting. The x-factors? Utah shooting only 22.7 percent from the field and a 13-0 OKC run to end the half.
In the third, Kevin Durant came alive. He came out shooting, getting to the line and knocking down open attempts. He scored seven straight OKC points at one point in the quarter, on his way to 15 points in the frame. The Jazz continued to only get worse, with the lowest point coming when DeMarre Carroll hit Durant as he moved toward the basket on a fast break. Taking exception, Westbrook immediately got in Carroll’s face, earning himself a Technical foul. Carroll was hit with a Flagrant 1, and the Jazz continued its downfall. OKC led 79-56 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter belonged to the backups, as the starters remained on the bench due to the scoring differential. Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher carried the load for the Thunder reserves, who in all honesty, were outplayed by the Jazz second-stringers at times. Jackson finished the game with 12 points and 6 rebounds, and Fisher finished with 10 points of his own. Utah never got close, and the Thunder cruised to a 110-87 victory.
Keys to the Game
The Thunder shot 7-16 from deep in this contest, good for 43.8 percent of its tries. You can’t really say the game came down to this, as the score was extremely lopsided from the outset. We’ll take it, though.
The Thunder won the rebounding battle 48-35, although giving up 13 offensive boards in the process. You want to win the rebounding battle, and the Thunder did, but the team needs to do a better job of boxing out moving forward and into the playoffs.
Although I counted 25 turnovers in the contest, ESPN has the Thunder down for 24 turnovers tonight, tied for most all season. Durant couldn’t hold on to the ball to save his life in the first half, and that pretty much went for everyone at times. If the Thunder wants to beat the Elite teams in the NBA, the turnovers MUST be kept to a minimum. Twenty-four won’t get it done. Ever. Not against teams that make you pay for those.