Observations from Friday night’s game……
* A 15-2 run in the second quarter opened up a 13-point lead for the Jazz that the Thunder never could recover from. It was due mainly to the Jazz tightening up its defense and forcing the Thunder to become a jump shooting team.
* Turnovers again bit the Thunder in the rear. 24 turnovers to 14 assists won’t win you many games. The Jazz, by comparison, had 32 assists and only 12 turnovers.
* At one point late in the second quarter Utah had 20 assists. OKC had eight.
* Deron Williams came out attacking early offensively and had his way all night — 24 points, 12 assists and four steals. He made nine of 13 shots in 35 minutes and either was trying to prove he was All-Star worthy or simply wanted to snap Utah’s four-game losing streak. I’m going to say both were in the back of his mind.
* The Thunder’s defense either took the night off or is in trouble without Desmond Mason. The transition D looked average, the rotations were a step slow and the paint went unprotected all night as evidenced by Utah’s 51.2 percent shooting.
* Without Mason, rookie guard Kyle Weaver got the first start of his career. He was decent. The biggest thing coach Scott Brooks was looking for out of the rook was defense. He did OK on Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer, but the biggest thing for Weaver was he took care of the basketball. While his teammates were throwing the ball all over the court, he committed only one turnover in 24 minutes. Impressive for a rookie making his first start, especially in a tough place to play like Utah.
* It’ll be interesting to see what kind of help the bench offers now that it’s down a man because of Mason’s injury. The reserves contributed just 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists tonight while turning the ball over 10 times. It would be easy to compare the two bench’s production tonight, see that Utah’s reserves scored only 18 points and think the Thunder’s reserves did fine. But the Jazz starters outscored OKC’s 90-73 and much of that second-quarter run came with the Thunder’s reserves in the ball game. The bench needs to provide a better spark, and between Chris Wilcox, Earl Watson and Nenad Krstic the Thunder should be able to get more production from its reserves.
* Lots of pick and rolls by the Thunder to start the game, particularly with Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison. It led to Collison getting it going offensively a little bit early. But early foul trouble limited Collison to eight points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes.
* I’d like to see Westbrook make better decisions out of the pick and roll. Tonight, he often either settled for an 18-footer or tried to force an entry pass into Collison. As good as he is at getting to the rim, he should be able to easily add another dimension and get to the rim or take two dribbles, draw the defense and kick it out to an open shooter. Just don’t turn it over.
* Seems like Brooks is giving Westbrook way too much leeway. Several times this season, I’ve seen Brooks simply shake his head at Westbrook’s shot selection. But there were several plays tonight that Westbrook seemingly didn’t even consider passing as an option. Sure, playing time can speed a player’s development. But allowing him to jack up shots and almost refuse to pass won’t do much for grooming Westbrook into becoming a better playmaker.
* The inbounds play by the Jazz at the end of the first half was reminiscent of the Wake Forest play that sent No. 1 Duke home losers.
* The Thunder ran very little for Jeff Green tonight, a questionable decision because he had a nice mismatch with Okur and Millsap. Green scored just 11 points on 13 shots, but how much more effective could he be if he had sets designed to get him going early?
* Durant had another solid performance to end an impressive January — 29 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Durant finished with four or more assists in six of the past seven games and nine rebounds or more in six of the past nine. He’s also gotten to the free throw line at least seven times in eight of the past nine games. Durant is transforming into a complete player. He needs to do something about his turnovers, though. He had five tonight and three of them came from simply being weak with the ball.