Thunder Silence Jazz
By Randy Renner
The Thunder got defensive with the Utah Jazz from the opening tip, holding them to just nine points in the first quarter on 19 percent shooting.
"I thought that set the tempo right there," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters after his team had finished up a 116-96 win.
"They come out and they try to bury you right from the beginning," said Jazz head coach Ty Corbin, "and they had a lot of success with that in the first quarter."
After the first 12 minutes the Thunder led 26-9. After the first 16 minutes the Jazz had managed a whopping 16 points and were on a snails pace toward 48 for the game.
"We settled for a lot of jump shots and we missed a lot of jump shots," Corbin said.
The Thunder had zeroed in on shutting down Utah's shooters and especially Gordon Hayward in Saturday's practice. Hayward had burned the Thunder for a career-high 37 points in Salt Lake City back in January and the Jazz shot almost 60 percent in a 112-101 win.
Sunday Hayward started 0-for-5 and finished with 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting and was never much of a factor.
Kevin Durant extended his streak of 25-point games to 38 straight with 31 points in just three quarters. He also handed out nine assists. Russell Westbrook didn't play in the fourth quarter either and finished with 19 points.
Caron Butler had another nice game, scoring 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
"I thought Russell and KD got everyone involved with easy looks. Caron was able to come in and make five 3s and Nick (Collison) did a great job of keeping the ball moving and finding open looks for teammates," Brooks said.
The Thunder's ball movement was excellent again with 26 assists. In the last four games OKC is averaging 27.8 assists.
The Thunder took good care of the ball too with only 13 turnovers.
"It's important we take care of the basketball," Brooks said. "We feel as a group we can shoot nearly 50 percent as a team so if we can keep the ball and get a shot on the basket there's a good chance we're going to make it."
The Thunder made more than they missed Sunday, shooting 55.4 percent overall and 61.1 percent (11-for-18) on threes.
Oklahoma City now is on a pretty good roll heading into that Thursday throwdown with the Spurs, having won six of their last seven and eight of the last 10.
A couple of concerns though, the Thunder went into relaxation mode on defense in the second and third quarters when the Jazz scored a combined 68 points. Utah managed to cut a 28 point OKC lead all the way down to just a dozen late in the third quarter but the Thunder then took off on a 17-7 run to put the game on ice.
The bigger concern is Reggie Jackson's health with a big time double-double looming at the end of the week.
Jackson has been bothered by a sprain in his mid-back area. Jackson warmed up before the game but couldn't go. He's now missed the last two games.
Westbrook of course is still being restricted to playing in just one game of a back-to-back set. The Thunder will host the Spurs on Thursday night then fly to Houston for a game with the Rockets on Sunday.
Hopefully Jackson will be good to go by Friday, otherwise the Thunder will either have to re-think their position on sitting Westbrook or Derek Fisher might be the Thunder's starting point guard that night.
Remember Friday is also when Kendrick Perkins has said he hopes to return to the lineup and Thabo Sefolosha should be back around that same time.
The Thunder will practice on Monday so we'll update everything then.