It was the long-awaited return OKC fans hoped for Monday night in Salt Lake City. After an uncertain run over the last several games, the beloved blue uniforms returned to the fold and catalyzed the Thunder’s 111-89 road win over the Jazz.
OK, OK. It wasn’t the not-at-all-beloved blue alternates, but the return of Kevin Durant that powered Oklahoma City to a reassuring beat down in Utah. And he didn’t dip his toe back into the NBA waters either, ruthlessly reducing the Jazz defense to cinders with 27 points on 10-13 shooting. What hamstring?
There’s nothing quite like a vintage Thunder beat down to calm the nerves after some ugly basketball during KD’s absence. How nice it would be to eliminate what happened between Durant leaving the Wizards game at halftime and now. You may recall the Thunder looked as cold blooded in the first half against Washington as they did tonight against the Jazz. After the early three-game slide, OKC was looking like we all expected right before KD went down, and was looking that way again upon his return.
The Thunder appeared to take the court with a confidence and attitude that has been sorely missing in the last couple of listless, ugly weeks, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the emotional lift of Durant’s return provided the spark. But whatever the reason, the OKC team that dispatched the Jazz with such ease on Monday was active, aggressive, decisive and deliberate. The focus was clear.
OKC overwhelmed the Jazz physically all over the court, throwing bodies at Utah’s Rudy Gobert and disrupting his game. Steven Adams did Steven Adams things and eventually coaxed a technical foul out of Gobert, who was clearly flustered by the Thunder’s physical play and gamesmanship. Serge Ibaka’s early block at the rim on Gobert served notice the Thunder wouldn’t be ceding the paint on either end of the floor, and the aggression on defense provided the spark that got OKC’s transition offense. Keep Reading…