SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA schedule-maker has been kind to the Utah Jazz so far this year.
Not only have the Jazz enjoyed 15 of their 24 games at home, they've usually been resting and waiting for their opponent to arrive, which has happened nine times already this year.
Such was the case again Friday night as Oklahoma City came to Utah having played a late game the night before in Sacramento. Meanwhile, the Jazz hadn't played for three days, since their Tuesday night game at Indiana.
It didn't seem to make a difference, however, as the Thunder made the Jazz look like the tired team in taking a 101-87 victory at the EnergySolutions Arena. Friday's game was the last of a five-game road trip for the Thunder in less than a week in the crazy NBA schedule this year.
"The road is not an easy place to win," said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. "When you have four games in five nights, it's not an easy thing to do. But these NBA guys make it look easy. Tonight, it took us awhile to find it, but we found we had it in us. We did a good job of grinding it out."
The big difference in the game came in the rebounding department, where the Thunder outboarded the Jazz by a whopping 46-32 margin and came up with 19 second-chance points compared to eight for Utah.
"One of the things we talked about going into the game was to rebound the basketball," said Brooks. "We knew these guys were a good rebounding team and they're a physical team. If you don't play tough against the Utah Jazz, you're not going to have much success."
Going into Friday's game, there wasn't much difference between the two teams in the rebounding department as both were out rebounding their opponents by a little more than one board per game.
However, in the first half, the Thunder outrebounded the Jazz 25-14, a big reason why they took a 49-44 lead into halftime. The two teams were even in the third quarter with nine apiece, and then in the final quarter, the Thunder outboarded the Jazz by three when they had several second-chance buckets.
Serge Ibaka led the Thunder rebounders with 11, while Kendrick Perkins had 10.Comment on this story
Another big difference was the play of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who led all scorers with 28 points. Westbrook flew by the Jazz guards on several occasions for layups and also knocked down some big baskets from the outside.
Perhaps his biggest basket came with 5:30 left, as he stole an outlet pass from Paul Millsap in the backcourt in stride and went up for an easy dunk to make it 88-77.
The Jazz never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Kevin Durant, the third-leading scorer in the league at 27.3 ppg, had a rather quiet night after scoring four points in the first minute of the game and finished with 19 points.