Fourteen seconds into Sunday nightâ€™s game, Jeff Green sank a 20-foot jump shot off a feed from Russell Westbrook to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead over Utah.
The play couldnâ€™t have been more costly.
The Thunder, it seemed, saw similar long-range shots as the key to success from that point on. As a result, Oklahoma City suffered its first defeat of 2010-11 â€” a 120-99 loss to a determined Jazz team seeking its first victory of the year.
Offense wasnâ€™t the primary problem Sunday. Defense was. The Thunder allowed the Jazz to shoot 53 percent, score 18 second-chance points and rack up a whopping 32 assists.
But OKC showed in its first two outings that it can withstand dents in its defense. What the Thunder canâ€™t afford to do is mix shaky defense and settling on offense.
In its first two games, the Thunder shot 91 free throws, 47 in the opener and 44 at Detroit. At halftime against the Jazz, the Thunder had just 11 foul shots. The 12th and 13th attempts didnâ€™t come until Westbrook converted a pair with 6:22 left in the third quarter.
That was good enough to cut the deficit to 25.
The Thunder shot 32 of 80 from the field. Twenty-three of the teamâ€™s misses came from beyond 17 feet.
â€œWe were thinking that we were going to be able to score with this team,â€ said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Through three games, the Thunderâ€™s offense has been horrific. The team is shooting 39.9 percent from the field and has made just 11 of 53 3-pointers, a paltry 20.7 percent. That is why free throws had been, and figure to continue to be, the saving grace until the sharpshooters show up.
â€œWhen the shots arenâ€™t falling, you got to make plays at the basket,â€ Brooks said. â€œAnd weâ€™ve got some athletic guys that can put the ball on the floor and score and attack the basket and also attack for others.â€