The Oklahoma City Thunder (41-26) picked up an important road win on Monday night in Salt Lake City, beating the Utah Jazz (37-29) by a final score of 98-89. With Paul George contributing just 14 points on 2-of-8 shooting, it was Dennis Schroder who picked up the slack — scoring 18 of his team-high 24 points after halftime to help keep the Thunder in front. Russell Westbrook contributed 23 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists in the win, turning in a solid performance in front of a crowd that booed his every touch. The Jazz shot just 36 percent in the contest, a welcomed reminder of what this Thunder team looks like when locked in defensively.
The win moves the Thunder a half game up on Portland for fourth place in the Western Conference. With the loss, Utah tumbles to 8th — a half game behind the 7th place Clippers.
Game of Runs. There were just five lead changes and four ties (all in the first half), but the game remained close as both teams traded runs throughout. OKC had a 9-0 run in the first quarter that was answered by a 10-2 Jazz run. The Thunder opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run, which Utah answered with an 8-0 run of their own — before the Thunder added a second 8-0 run to seize control before the end of the first half.
Though the Thunder led throughout the second half, the Jazz made several attempts to storm back and make it interesting. However, OKC had an answer for every run and never let their lead get trimmed to less than five. Big credit to Dennis Schroder (18 points in 2nd Half) for buoying the Thunder after halftime. They don’t get it done without him.
Russ. For the second time in three road games, Westbrook was booed every time he touched the basketball. The Brodie responded with 23 points (9/19 FG, 2/4 3P), 11 rebounds, and eight assists — another solid outing — but will probably make most of his headlines for an interaction he had with some Jazz fans. I’ll get to that in a bit, but as far as basketball is concerned — Russ was big and that 3-ball from the logo to put OKC up 11 with 2:45 to go was the back-breaker.
PG. George was unusually quiet in this one, shooting just 2-of-8 from the field for 14 points. Despite being without K-Tape on his shoulder, he was 0-of-3 from downtown — but did salvage his night with 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Three steals, a block, all that good stuff. Shot still missing in action.
The Fan Thing. Long story short — Russ was caught on camera saying some very unflattering things to a pair of Jazz fans. Profanity-laced. Aggressive. It wasn’t a good look.
Patrick Patterson quickly took to Twitter to discuss it:
It’s tricky. On one hand, you’d hope your superstar point guard wouldn’t threaten to beat up a man and his wife. On the other, he’s a human being and will respond like one when provoked. Regardless of how you feel about it, the player/fan dynamic conversation will only grow louder as a result.
Last Word. Craziness aside, it was a good, important win for the Thunder on Monday night in Salt Lake City. PG’s mini-slump is concerning, and you can’t bet on Schroder to save you every night, but Westbrook was good and the defense finally stopped somebody. You’ll take it.
The 4-game road gauntlet ends with a 2-2 record and completed season-sweeps of Utah and Portland. Back to Oklahoma City for a Wednesday night showdown with the Brooklyn Nets.