SALT LAKE CITY — Believe it or not, the two big men that bullied the Thunder all night Tuesday are the same two that are widely believed to be on the trading block.
While seemingly everyone in the Sooner State continues to salivate over a low-post scorer, the Utah Jazz could quietly be searching for a way to ship out at least one of the two that torched the Thunder in a thorough 109-94 thumping inside Energy Solutions Arena.
Al Jefferson scored a team-high 23 points, and Paul Millsap added 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to help the Jazz snap the Thunder's four-game winning streak and show that all still is not right on the road for OKC.
“They kicked our (rear),” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 33 points.
Jefferson and Millsap combined for 17 rebounds, two more than the Thunder's starting five had all night. Nine of those rebounds by Utah's big man tandem came on the offensive end, allowing the Jazz to outscore the Thunder 18-4 in second-chance points.
“They did what they do, and we didn't fight back enough to give it a game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
OKC strolled into Utah riding high, having won its previous four games by an average of 25.3 points while scoring at a 113.8-point clip. In those contests, the team defense was as dialed in as it's been all year, and ball movement and ball security led to balanced scoring and incredible offensive efficiency.
That must have all gotten misplaced somewhere between Phoenix and Utah.
The Thunder turned the ball over 20 times — including four in the first four minutes — and watched the giveaways turn into 28 Jazz points. After recording no more than 14 turnovers in the previous four games, the Thunder had 14 at halftime Tuesday. Oklahoma City also had not allowed more than 10 offensive rebounds in any of the previous four contests. The Jazz had 11 by halftime before finishing with 16.
“They took it to us,” Brooks said. “They beat us in a way that we like to beat teams, by being physical and by being tough.”
Utah entered the game without Mo Williams, its starting point guard who's missed 25 straight games with a torn thumb ligament, and third leading scorer Gordon Hayward. But rather than take advantage of the injury-plagued Jazz, the Thunder watched another winnable game against a short-handed bunch slip away, much like it did against San Antonio, Atlanta and Washington.
The frustration ultimately boiled over on the court and, later, in the locker room.
With 6:06 left to play and the Thunder trailing by 17, Durant attempted to stop a Jazz fast break by delivering a hard foul against reserve guard Alec Burks. Durant lowered his forearm into Burks just enough to send him into the nearby set of baseline seats. Jazz teammate DeMarre Carroll then walked in the direction of Durant and said a few words. Durant pushed Carroll away, and a shoving match ensued.
Durant was called for a flagrant 1 foul on the play, and Carroll and Durant received double technical fouls — Durant's 10th of the season.
“It's part of the game,” Durant said. “I'm not a dirty player or anything like that.”
With 16 technical fouls triggering an automatic one-game suspension, Durant was asked if he will be more mindful of his growing temper.
“I'm just going to keep being me,” Durant said. “I don't give a damn. I'm going to just keep being me.”