OKC's Hard-Fought Game Pays Off In Salt Lake City
By A. Suave Francisco
Following a four-day rest, the Thunder got back on the road, this time to Utah to play the hottest team in the NBA. The Jazz won six-straight games and are the No. 5 ranked team in the Western Conference, but Russell Westbrook's 22nd triple-double of the season, plus the return of Steven Adams propelled the Thunder to a 97-95 victory in a game where they went on a third quarter hiatus.
Although the Westbrook conversation has gotten a bit repetitive this season, he gave us no choice but to praise him yet again for another dominating performance. Not only did he post his 22nd triple-double of the season with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, he won the game for his team with a 15-foot jumper with a shade over one second left in the game. Individually, he was great but more impressively, he implemented Steven Adams in the offense despite missing the previous four games due to a concussion.
Although Adams' stat line isn't intriguing to the eye, his 9 points and 6 rebounds went a very long way for the Thunder. His mere presence in the post drew Utah's attention, allowing other players like Enes Kanter and Victor Oladipo to really thrive offensively. In simpler terms, Adams walked, so his teammates could fly.
Speaking of teammates, Oladipo and Kanter had monster games, combining for 32 points on 13-for-20 shooting. And with that being said, Oladipo could've and probably should've scored more, with him not attempting a shot in the third quarter, where the Thunder as a team only scored 11 points.
Following a dreadful third quarter where Russell shot 0-of-7 from the field and the team wasn't much better, it was imperative for OKC to have a bit of amnesia heading into the fourth quarter. They realized what just partook and changed the trend. Utah finally found its shot and discovered a way to put the Thunder in quicksand defensively until Andre Roberson quietly helped the Thunder stop the Jazz, as usual, while Westbrook scored 14 points in the final quarter. Roberson finished with a team-high 11 rebounds and added 8 points.
This has been a streaky season for the Thunder, but they've still overachieved in most aspects. They are now No. 6 in the Western Conference, just 2 and a half games behind the Jazz for fifth. This win should serve as an emotional boost for this youthful team in the midst of the toughest stretch of the season. The six upcoming games feature four playoff teams: Cleveland, San Antonio, Chicago, and Memphis. They'll get an easier draw in the next two against New Orleans, a team that just beat Cleveland without their star, Anthony Davis, then Dallas at home. Oklahoma City improves to (26-19) on the season and (11-13) on the road after this victory over the Jazz.