In the Thunder's 101-87 victory at Utah last Friday, All-Star nominees Paul Millsap (4 for 15) and Al Jefferson (9 for 18) combined to shoot 39.4 percent from the field.
In OKC's 111-85 victory at home against the Jazz on Tuesday night, Millsap (4 for 9) and Jefferson (7 for 19) missed their first seven shots and combined to shoot 39.3 percent, providing further proof the Thunder has one of the league's premier defensive frontcourts in Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed.
“I have a lot of confidence in all of our bigs being able to contain our opponent,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. “They really do a good job of competing and staying in plays. The biggest compliment you can give an athlete is his consistency, and those guys bring it every day. They don't get a lot of the credit. They don't get the limelight … but they do it every night. They're so consistent. We love what they're about. If not for them, we wouldn't be in our position.”
Mohammed said: “I think we're pretty good. That's for other people to say if we're the best in the league or not. We don't really think about that. Perk, he takes a lot of pride in his defense. That's a great compliment, but we're not going to let it get to our heads.”
Ibaka had six blocked shots Tuesday, giving him 18 in the last three games.
Tuesday began another busy stretch in the Thunder's schedule with seven games in 10 days, although six of those games are at home.
OKC played five games in the first seven days of the season and went 5-0. The Thunder also went 5-0 in a span of six days, which included its lone back-to-back-to-back of the season.
OKC has the league's best record at 22-6, and Mohammed said he not surprised how well the team has held up through the grueling stretches.
“No, not at all,” Mohammed said. “I don't want to sound arrogant or cocky, but I'm not surprised because I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. Those guys do a great job of taking care of their bodies. We're a deep team. We play 10 guys, which is kind of unheard of. We're a team that plays 10 guys almost every night when we have (injured starting guard) Thabo (Sefolosha). We're where we need to be, but we definitely need to get better at rebounding and taking care of the ball.”
Utah missed 16 of its first 17 shots from the field Tuesday to fall behind 16-4, yet trailed only 23-19 with 45.6 seconds left in the first quarter.
With 8:06 left in the second quarter, the Jazz was shooting 31.4 percent from the field (11 for 35) and 0 for 6 from 3-point range, and trailed just 31-28. That's when the Thunder went on a 9-0 run and blew the game open.
All 13 active Thunder players played, and all 13 scored. Eight played 21-plus minutes. … Perkins tied a career-high with six assists. … OKC led wire-to-wire and its biggest lead was 27. … Thunder forward Ryan Reid made his first NBA appearance. … Reggie Jackson played a career-high 24 minutes, 36 seconds and had a career-high eight assists. … OKC outscored Utah 17-4 in fastbreak points and 60-42 in points in the paint. The Jazz outscored the Thunder 22-16 on second-chance points thanks to 19 offensive rebounds. … Thunder coach Scott Brooks and Utah coach Tyrone Corbin were teammates with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1990-92. … OKC, which leads the NBA in free-throw percentage at 79.7 percent, shot 64.7 percent (22 for 34) from the line, the second-lowest percentage on the season (60.7 percent in a loss at San Antonio).
TNT analyst Steve Kerr on what the Thunder needs to improve upon: “OKC is the best team in the West. I worry about fourth quarter execution. They are a little bit like Miami West. They overwhelm you with talent and the ability to beat you off the dribble. But in the playoffs, can they execute when a team stays in front of them and slows the game down? Can they get easy baskets? They are the most talented team, so we'll see.”