The Thunder were coming off 4 days rest, outside of the All Star break this will be the longest gap between games they have for the remainder of the season. They came out looking like they had taken full advantage of their time off, with fresh legs they were running up and down the court on the Jazz scoring 20 points in transition in the first half.
Steven Adams returned after missing two games with a concussion and had some pep in his step. Billy D said before the game that he would not be on a minutes’ restriction and it didn’t look like one was needed as he finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks along with pretty solid defense all around. He had a great welcome back moment early in the game, just to let everyone know he was feeling okay.
Since the last time we saw Russell Westbrook on the floor for the Thunder, he had had been snubbed for a starting spot on the Western Conference All Star team. He came out looking like he had something to prove and was shooting well in the first half finishing with 22 points on 7-13 shooting.
It wasn’t just Russ shooting well in the first half, the Thunder as a team shot 52.5% from the field including 50% from 3. It was good to see this after the shot 36.6% from the field in their first matchup against the Jazz earlier this year.
The Jazz were able to stay in the game with interior scoring, despite poor shooting from Gordon Hayward (6 of 17) and George Hill (2 of 9) who had both been scorching hot as of late.
After a bad sequence for the Thunder at the end of the first half where they gave up four quick points, they went into the locker room with a 3-point lead. However, it felt like they had more energy and overall aggressiveness than the Jazz (on their 3rd game in 4 nights) and could definitely pull off a much needed and very impressive win in Salt Lake City.
But, then it all came crashing down in the third quarter. The Thunder only scored 11 points, Russ with only 2 on 0-7 from the floor. However, they played decent defense and were able to hold the Jazz to only 19. The Thunder couldn’t hit a shot and were very stagnant on offense. Russ seemed to get frustrated, as he does at times, and was trying to shoot the Thunder back into rhythm with some questionable shot attempts. In addition, Oladipo, who had played a solid first half, (13 points on 6 of 7) completely disappeared with 0 shots in the quarter.
At the start of the fourth, the Jazz kept up their momentum and it looked like the Thunder may be done, but they settled back down and Kanter and Oladipo were able to score as the Thunder put together strings of stops on the other end. Alec Burks tried to keep the Jazz in the game late as he finished with 13 points off the bench to lead all Jazz reserve scorers.
Russ’s hot shooting had ended in the third and stayed ice cold in the 4th until he hit a huge three about 5 feet behind the arc with 3 minutes left to put the Thunder up one.
It was back and forth late in the game. With a minute left and the Thunder up one, Utah went to Favors again down low. But Stephen Adams was in great position and swatted away the Favors’ attempt. The Big Kiwi then ran the floor and Russ found him for the slam to put the Thunder up three.
Gobert scored easily on the other end for the Jazz and the lead was cut to one. With about 20 seconds to go, Westbrook pulled up for a jumper that hit the back iron and bounced out. However, Adams, with the hustle play of the night, corralled the offensive board and got the ball out to Westbrook who was then fouled immediately by a Utah defender.
It looked like the Thunder might have this one in the bag, but Gordon Hayward had other plans, sinking a 3 to tie the game with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Russ then headed up the court with the ball. Honestly, I was expecting a deep three, but the defense was late to pick him up and he decided to take an extra dribble and rose up for a long pull up a few feet inside the arc. The ball swished through the net and the Thunder were up two with only 1 second left to play.
Alex Burks missed a decent look on the other end, and that was all she wrote, Thunder 97 Jazz 95.
- Rodney Hood was out tonight for the Jazz with an injury. The Jazz are a good team without him, and I would still say this was a very solid win for the Thunder.
- Great to see Steve back in the lineup tonight. His defensive presence was definitely missed.
- Roberson had a solid night on both ends. He had two quick fouls early guarding Hayward, but after that he played a good defensive game on the Jazz forward, holding him to a pretty poor shooting night. He also went 4-6 on the other offensive end for 8 points.
- When Roberson got his two quick fouls Donovan left him in the game but switched Oladipo onto Hayward. Hayward scored on Oladipo instantly.
- Russ’s triple double was his first against Utah and ties him with Larry Bird for 5th all time.
- Domas was unable to get anything to go in tonight going 0-5 from the field. He also had one really bad sequence where he showed just how little confidence he has in his right hand. He had a fairly open layup if he finished with his right and instead decided to go up and under with his left and missed badly.
- It’s amazing how much of a factor Rudy Gobert plays. Along with his 4 blocks, he strongly deterred Westbrook from trying to finish inside. Westbrook, as he did in the first matchup against Utah, settled for his elbow jumper and the three pointer. It worked in the first half, but he got cold in the third and most of the fourth until finishing 4 of 6 along with the game winner.
- Westbrook was absolutely dominating Dante Exum in the post. It was fun to watch.
- The Thunder took care of the ball very well early. Including Russ, who has been turning it over at an alarming rate in January.
- Kanter’s night started off rough getting blocked a couple of times and hearing it from the crowd, but he turned it around and finished with 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting along with 5 rebounds.
- Cameron Payne did not look good in his first outing in this game. He came back in the second half and played better but all around he has not looked good since returning from injury.
- Joe Ingles improved D along with his continued shooting from the outside makes him a very nice piece for the Jazz. He didn’t have a great night, but he’s had a very good season so far and you would expect the Jazz to try and keep him as he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Also, this quote the other day was amazing.
- The Jazz had been on fire since George Hill returned from injury. He was basically non-existent tonight.
- I wish Oladipo would dunk hard on a fast break. I want to see that pop like he had for that dunk on Dwight earlier this year. He was wide open on a fast break in the first half and dunked it so, so soft.
- Alec Burks looks to have his NBA legs back after being out with injury.
- It was awesome to see the Thunder fight back after such a horrible third quarter. Especially the resilience of Russ to come back and go 4 of 6 to end the game.
- Oh, and in non-Thunder related news… Dion did this to the Warriors:
Next Up: At New Orleans on Wednesday at 7 CST.