Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After one quarter on Saturday night, the Utah Jazz were on pace to score 148 points and undoubtedly set records for offensive efficiency, style points and field-goal percentage.
But the law of percentages caught up with the Jazz, and Utah couldn't keep pace with Oklahoma City in a 121-105 loss at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Jazz played beautiful basketball for a quarter against the Thunder — and couldn't miss a shot. They made their first 11 field-goal attempts and first four free throws. Their first official miss came when Al Jefferson clanked a foul shot with 4:13 left in the first quarter. Paul Millsap missed a jumper 24 seconds later.
Think about that for a second. It took almost eight minutes for Utah to miss a shot on Saturday, and it came at the free-throw line.
"We came out with some tremendous energy," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "We were about as good as we've been in a long time in that first quarter. We passed the ball, we moved the ball, we executed. We got shots it looked like we had a chance to make."
It looked like Utah was going to have no trouble taking the rubber match between the two Northwest Division rivals after each team won on the other's home floor earlier this season. Millsap was on his way to a big night with 34 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
"'Oh no, we're in trouble,'" is what Thunder coach Scott Brooks said his reaction was to Utah's first quarter. "They were making every shot. We were helping them make a lot of those shots. We weren't defending anybody."
That changed late in the first quarter, and the Jazz started to cool down as it came to an end. It only went downhill from there.
After scoring 37 points and shooting 73.7 percent in the first quarter, Utah shot 47.4 percent and scored just 20 points in the second period. After dishing 10 assists in the first quarter, the Jazz had six in the second quarter.
The Jazz were outscored in each of the last three quarters on Saturday, and not everyone was blaming the offense.
"I don't feel like we played bad offensively," said Jazz guard Raja Bell. "We gave it a go. We even came out with a nice energy about us, but they were tough tonight."
One person wasn't happy with the Jazz's offense after their brilliant start, and it should come as no surprise as to who.
"When we got in trouble, a lot of the times we were coming down and trying to do a little bit too much at times instead of having the confidence in our offense to try to make that work," said Sloan. "When we stay in our offense, we usually stay in the ballgame."
The Jazz getting away from their offense was mostly evident in the fourth quarter. They had just two assists on seven made baskets and shot a miserable 35 percent from the field.
Credit Oklahoma City's defense and Brooks' schemes for cooling off Utah's offense. And while both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Thunder maintained their energy while Utah's fizzled.
"We started off terrible, but our second unit sparked us in that second quarter and was able to give us energy," said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. "We fought hard and got stops and got us a good win."
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