By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Oklahoma City’s impressive four-game win streak came to a screeching halt in Utah on Tuesday night, with the Jazz taking control early and cruising to a 109-94 win over the Thunder. Here’s some rapid reaction:
How do you shoot 63 percent in the first half, yet head to the locker room trailing by six? You turn the ball over 14 times and allow 11 offensive rebounds in the first 24 minutes. That’s what OKC did in Utah on Tuesday, coming out relatively unenergized despite some scorching shooting and falling in an early hole they wouldn’t be able to climb out of. Here’s a couple ugly stats to put the effort in perspective
It was over when…
…That lack of energy leaked into the second half, Utah took advantage (pushing the lead well into double-digits) and Scott Brooks waved the early white flag. Trailing by 19 with 5:23 left in the game (a longshot rally but not insurmountable with OKC’s offensive firepower), Brooks gave Durant, Westbrook and the other starters an early seat on the bench. Probably a wise move, considering the defending champs are coming to OKC on Thursday.
Star of the game – Al Jefferson/Paul Milksop
Utah’s two-headed interior abused OKC’s frontline all night, combining for 41 points and 17 rebounds, while Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined for only 14 and nine. In this case, those stats accurately tell the tale. Jefferson torched all of OKC’s post defenders with his crafty array of pumps, duck-ins and feathery jumpers. And Millsap outplayed them with energy. Serge Ibaka finished the game with seven blocks, some of the highlight variety, but that’s a bit misleading. He was good in help-side but bad in one-on-one. And that was the difference. Ibaka finished the game with a season-low plus/minus of -28.
Rising – Durant’s scoring mojo
After four straight blowout wins, where his scoring prowess wasn’t needed and he never eclipsed 25 points, Durant was able to put a big (and efficient) number on the board. He scored 33 points on 11/16 shooting, bumping his season average up to 29.0 points per game, giving him a share of the NBA lead (with Carmelo Anthony).
Falling – Durant’s promise to avoid technicals
The Thunder star got technical #10 in the fourth quarter, mixing it up with DeMarre Carroll seconds after KD was called for a flagrant for a push of Alec Burks. The ‘T’ seemed to be a pretty weak call (Carroll initiated the mini-scuffle), but Durant didn’t walk away, giving him a slight push. And that now ties him for second in the NBA with 10 technicals (with Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes), two away from the NBA league lead (DeMarcus Cousins) and six away from an automatic one-game suspension. Time to start being a little bit more careful
Stats of note
-The Thunder finished with 20 turnovers
-OKC’s bench was outscored 49-25.
-For only the second time this season, the Thunder lost when both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shot 50 percent or better. They were 13-1 coming in. Durant shot 11/16, Westbrook 8/14.
The All-Star break!! What’s that? There’s a game before? Oh yeah. Not that you’d be interested, but OKC finishes off the first half against the defending-champion Miami Heat and their reigning MVP LeBron James (who’s on a historical shooting streak). I’m sure there won’t be much energy in The Peake.