The Utah Jazz’s road woes continued, albeit against one of the NBA’s elite. After countering the Oklahoma City Thunder early, the Jazz had a rough go of it during the second and third quarters Friday night. They made a valiant effort in the fourth, but ultimately lost 106-94.
Thundering Herd: Last season’s Western Conference champions showed exactly why they are the early favorites to return to the NBA Finals. Their elite players were elite, while their role players did their part.
Despite a rough shooting night, guard Russell Westbrook was the pace-setter for Oklahoma City. He gave great effort on both ends of the court. As a result, his stat line was quite impressive: 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals. His partner-in-crime, Kevin Durant, scored a quiet 25 points on just 13 field-goal attempts.
Serge Ibaka’s defense was integral for the Thunder. He not only blocked seven shots, but altered many others. And newcomer Kevin Martin added 19 off the bench, requiring just 12 shots to do so.
Encouraging Signs: The story of the game for the Utah Jazz was the strong play of sophomore big man Enes Kanter. He had one of the best games of his career, particularly excelling in the second half. He looked mobile, made nice interior moves and was dialed in on his jumper. All in all, Kanter finished with a season-high 18 points, shot 8 of 11 from the field and snatched seven rebounds.
It’s safe to say that Earl Watson has returned to form. His playmaking orchestrated a nice 15-4 run that got the Jazz back into the scrum in the fourth quarter. Watson had six assists in his first three minutes and ended up with eight total.
And while his shot was errant, in Marvin Williams’ absence, Alec Burks got his first solid non-blowout playing time (14 minutes) and played some strong defense in the second half.
Active Hands: The Utah Jazz did not fare poorly on the hustle stats, garnering eight blocked shots and nine steals. Unfortunately, their opponents one-upped them to the tune of 14 blocks and 11 steals of their own. The Thunder’s defense, like that of most teams, propelled its offense.
Furthermore, Oklahoma City won the rebounding battle 47-40.
- Former Jazz point guard Eric Maynor entered the game averaging career-lows of 4.1 points and 2.1 assists, while shooting just 29.6 percent. He was held without a point or an assist in nine minutes Friday night.
- After hitting two early fourth-quarter shots, Utah swingman Gordon Hayward missed his last five shots.
- Coming into the game, 65.5 percent (36 of 55) of Jazz guard Randy Foye’s made field goals had been 3-pointers. All four of his makes Friday were from downtown, raising that mark to 67.8 percent.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.