SALT LAKE CITY — As Thabo Sefolosha strolled to his seat, getting a much-deserved breather near the conclusion of the third quarter, a fan near the Thunder bench aimlessly shouted, "No, Durant was supposed to come out.”
Little did the poor guy know, Thunder coach Scott Brooks was doing Utah fans a solid, because it was Sefolosha who silently stymied their beloved Jazz and sparked the Thunder’s 104-94 win on Tuesday night at Energy Solutions Arena.
And while Durant certainly did his part, with easily identifiable playmaking consisting of pinpoint passes and big-time buckets, Sefolosha made his mark where he routinely does — on the less glamorous defensive end.
The Thunder notched its fifth road win and first in Utah since 2007 because of one key defensive switch Brooks made to start the second half. The Thunder’s coach put Sefolosha on Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who had single-handedly kept the game from turning into a blowout late in the first half.
At halftime, Williams had eight points on 4-for-9 shooting to go with six assists. Williams, who entered the game averaging 19.8 points and 9.9 assists, finished the game with 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting and nine assists.
Williams was 1-for-5 from the field in the third quarter. His lone basket after halftime came on a breakaway. While Sefolosha was glued to him, Williams had just one assist and committed two turnovers in the third quarter. The Thunder outscored the Jazz 31-16 in the period.
"He was unbelievable,” Durant said of Sefolosha. "Deron Williams is a tough cover at the point guard position. He did a great job on him. That’s what we need from him every night and that’s what he’s been doing.”
Brooks used a similar strategy, switching Sefolosha on the opponent’s point guard in wins at San Antonio and at home last Friday against Washington.