Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If imitation is indeed the greatest form of flattery, then don't be surprised if Oklahoma City puts a J-note on its uniforms and orders a couple of bronze statues.
The Thunder didn't just knock Utah off of its Rocky Mountain high — a night after the Jazz won a riveting game in Denver — by picking apart the hosts' defense.
The Northwest Division leaders stormed to a 121-105 victory over the Jazz by thriving on an old Jerry Sloan staple.
Yep. The Thunder picked-and-rolled the Jazz D apart.
En route to padding its division lead, OKC's offense overwhelmed Utah by shooting 56.6 percent from the field, hitting 13 of 21 3-pointers and scoring 95 points in the final three quarters.
That more than made up for the early 13-point lead the Jazz built and overshadowed Paul Millsap's brilliant 34-point performance and Utah's own hot night of shooting (51.3 percent).
"We went through everything that we do on the defensive end of the floor as far as pick and roll to try and play them," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We weren't able to handle any of it."
The Jazz simply struggled to stop most of the Thunder's sharpshooters — from ex-Utah player Eric Maynor (10 points), to Jeff Green (20 points on 8-for-9 shooting), to the Thunder's lightning-quick All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook (33 points).
Six OKC players hit double figures, and the only one of those prolific scorers who didn't shoot well was Kevin Durant (7-for-17, 21 points).
So much for the momentum of an emotional victory in Denver.
"It was a tough loss," said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who had a double-double of 14 points and 11 assists but struggled to contain his counterpart. "We came out with a lot of energy, and it looked like we were going to take control of the game early."
Building off of its strong showing in the Mile High City from Friday's 113-106 win, Utah came out and shot the lights out in the first quarter. The Jazz hit their first 11 shots — the first time that had happened in the NBA in a year — and finished the period with a sizzling 73.7 field-goal percentage and a 37-27 lead.
They made it look so fun, the Thunder decided to match it.
Remarkably — both in the coincidence and in their accuracy — Oklahoma City's copycats shot the same 73.7 percentage in the second quarter after starting the period with back-to-back-to-back 3-point makes.
"(We) got up 13 points," Williams said, "and then in that second quarter, they kind of sucked the life out of us. We weren't able to regain it after that."
After the Jazz put together their second-best first quarter of the season — Utah scored 14 more than its average (23.2) — the Thunder rolled to take a five-point lead by halftime. Having stymied Utah's defense, they added to their margin in the third and fourth periods.
"They would hit a few shots outside with a hand in their face, so that's tough," said Millsap, who hit 15 of 20 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds. "You play good defense and they hit a shot anyways."
It didn't help that Utah, which has lost nine of 12 games, missed 15 of 18 from long range and ended on the short end of the assist battle, 30-27.
Bench play also proved to be a huge factor in this game's outcome. In this 16-point game, Oklahoma City's reserves outscored Utah's backups 33-16.
That cavalry effort — sparked by James Harden's 14 points, six rebounds and five assists — helped the Thunder improve to 33-17.
Utah, meanwhile, fell to 30-22 — fell four games behind — after getting very little spark from its subs after the exact opposite happened in Friday's win.
"I know Russell and Kevin are our two All-Stars, but we are developing a good team here," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Everybody has to chip in and do their job. … I thought out bench won the game tonight."
He won't get into an argument over that with Sloan.
"That probably hurt us a little bit," the Hall of Fame coach said of his bench's off night. "But, you know, that's what you run into sometimes. Their bench is pretty good. They've got a lot of guys who'd be starting on a lot of teams with their bench. When we made changes, they kind of got away from us."
But Sloan noted that even after OKC's subs did their jobs, the Jazz defense struggled doing its job.
"We couldn't stop them, and it was obvious on our faces whenever we played," Sloan said. "It looked like we were really disappointed in ourselves, and I know they were. They wanted to play better, but you have to give (the Thunder) credit."
NOTES: This was the most the Jazz scored in the first quarter since exploding for 41 points against Toronto on Nov. 3. … Detroit was the last NBA team to start 11-for-11, back on Feb. 19, 2010. … Utah hadn't started that hot since going 12-for-12 after tipoff against Sacramento on March 11, 1998. … Millsap notched his fourth 30-point game this season. … OKC's 62 percent from 3-point land was a season-high for a Jazz opponent.
- Items owned by gangster 'Whitey' Bulger to be...
- World doping watchdog shuts down Rio Olympic...
- AP source: Irving, Barnes finish US Olympic...
- Federer out to turn around frustrating season...
- With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in...
- Ipsen, Hixon get Olympic 3-meter spots,...
- National champion Sam Mikulak leads US men's...
- Past few days 'difficult' for former...
- Never on Sunday: BYU won't compete on... 167
- U. stadium gets bigger scoreboard,... 79
- Kalani Sitake on BYU-Utah rivalry: 'I... 66
- Sitake not intimidated by BYU's arduous... 58
- Morning Links: BYU basketball fans... 43
- Dick Harmon: 1996 Cotton Bowl champion... 42
- Morning links: Colin Cowherd compares... 27
- Utah Jazz plan to be 'active' during... 24