This game was a must win with no Rudy Gobert or Derrick Favors for the Jazz and the Thunder were able to capitalize, putting the Thunder up 3-1 in the regular season match up with their division rival.
A 23-point-lead in the second half turned into a 6-point-lead with about minute left in the fourth quarter when Utah found success with their second unit. No Jazz starter scored in double digits, but Alec Burks and Dante Exum both scored over twenty points. The Jazz second unit really came together in the second half and made this game competitive. This game could’ve turned out a lot differently, but the inexperience of Utah’s second unit couldn’t overcome the 23-point deficit.
Westbrook had a crazy first half with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and a block. He earned his 32nd triple double of the season early in the third quarter and scored the game-sealing dunk to put the game away. Russ is only 9 triple-doubles away from tying The Big O and I would be really surprised if he doesn’t surpass him with 16 games left this season. Russ ended tonight with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.
I guess Victor Oladipo’s back is okay. He had 17 points in the first half and dunked all over Trey Lyles. He ended the night with 22 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists. Kanter was also great in this game with 16 points, 6 rebounds 1 assist and 2 blocks. He didn’t look too lost on defense and scored an efficient 8-of-12 from the field.
In the first half, OKC doubled Utah’s point in the paint 36-18 and were +6 in offensive rebounds. They ended the night being +14 in points in the paint and +7 in rebounds. Gobert and Favors being out for any time is a blow for Utah. They’re a great team that hasn’t been able to stay fully healthy for any extended time. I don’t envision Utah dropping to the sixth seed, but their focus needs to be getting everyone healthy for the playoffs – not on what seed they are.
Dante Exum scored a career-high 22 points on 7-of-8 from the field. It’s good to see him play well, he’s had his fair share of injuries during his short NBA career. Alec Burks scored a season-high 21 points, he’s a great reserve and is a big reason why Utah has such a loaded roster when they’re healthy. If this game had went another quarter, the Thunder might’ve blown this game, but luckily that wasn’t the case.
The Thunder have a pretty light schedule to wrap up the season. The most likely scenario is for OKC to end up at the 6th or 7th seed. Without Aldridge, the Spurs could be vulnerable, but they can’t game plan to get the 7th seed. The Warriors could easily end up being the match-up instead of the Spurs. Either way, I’m pretty certain Russell Westbrook isn’t too concerned about that.
- Taj Gibson is starting to really fit around the Thunder team. I’m glad that he’s finally starting, his ability on both ends of the floor is fun to watch. Taj had 15 points and 6 rebounds, but had to be subbed out of the game. He reportedly had hip soreness and was available to return, but didn’t.
- Domas had 5 fouls in 12 minutes. He never gets the benefit of the doubt with the coin-flip calls and he’s even worse than Steven Adams was as a rookie about getting into foul trouble. He’s a rookie, that’s sort of what’s expected.
- Semaj Christon played minutes over Norris Cole again. He went scoreless, but he also didn’t turn the ball over. So I guess that’s something.
- Hayward played 21 minutes, Hill played 18 minutes and Hood only played 21 minutes. The reserves were the reason Utah made this game close. I think Quin Snyder, the Utah head coach/Slytherin Headmaster made the right call to play the second unit when it mattered most.
- Joel Bolomboy is an NBA player that I didn’t know existed. He was a denied a dunk by the rim and airballed a three, but he played okay-ish basketball other than that.