Thunder defeat Jazz behind defense, sweeps season series
By: Addam M. Francisco, Senior Writer.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Utah Jazz, expectations are always for a great game. Monday night in Salt Lake City followed that narrative and didn't disappoint, but in a hostile environment, the Thunder swept the season series with a 98-89 victory.
With this loss, the Jazz fell to eighth place in the Western Conference, and the Thunder narrow the margin between third and fourth with the Houston Rockets to one game.
This wasn't a game where the Thunder shredded Utah's defense for a high-point outing. They won this game on the backs of their defense, led by Paul George and Steven Adams. George in particular didn't have his ideal night on the offensive end but made sure to step up his game on defense. He finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 2-of-8 shooting.
Who made up the difference on offense, then? Dennis Schröder did...at least in the second half. He scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half which is what made the difference in OKC overcoming a bad game offensively for George. Without Schröder’s contributions, the Thunder may have succumbed to Utah's constant runs.
Russell Westbrook, despite the well-documented verbal altercation with the Utah fans, played a solid game on both ends of the floor. As George and Adams stepped up their defensive play, so did Westbrook but on offense, he was highly impactful, netting 9-of-19 shots for 23 points and hitting 2-of-4 threes. Westbrook, per usual also did his job of getting his teammates the ball with 8 assists and added 11 rebounds.
Although Rudy Gobert had a 15-point night where he only missed 3 shots, Adams did an acceptable job on Utah's big man in the second half as he only scored 4 points, which stunted Utah in their attempt to pull closer to the Thunder.
So, pairing PG's performance on the defensive end throughout the contest, plus Adams and Nerlens Noel's contributions with the way Westbrook and Schröder attacked this game offensively, the Thunder were bound to pick up their fourth win over their newfound rivals, the Utah Jazz.
The Thunder are now (41-26) on the season and have secured a record of .500 or better for the 10th consecutive season. With 14 games remaining, the Thunder won't get any breaks. Eleven of their remaining 14 will be against playoff teams. Luckily, eight of those 11 will be inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena where the Thunder are (22-9).