SALT LAKE CITY — Too many times this season, the Utah Jazz have watched comfortable fourth-quarter leads melt away, some resulting in losses and others ending up as close wins that made them sweat a little too much down the stretch.
Playing the team with the second-best record in the NBA Tuesday night, the Jazz did something different. For a change, the Jazz put their foot on their opponents’ throat in the fourth quarter, expanding an 11-point lead to 21 and handing Oklahoma City its second-worst loss of the season with a 109-94 victory.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the Jazz did it with five reserves in the game while the Thunder had three starters playing, including stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Leading 94-83 midway through the fourth quarter with Earl Watson, Alec Burks, DeMarre Carroll, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor, the Jazz went on a 10-0 run in a remarkable two minute, 21-second span that energized the EnergySolutions crowd and left the Thunder reeling. That bunch played so well, coach Tyrone Corbin didn’t even have to put his starters back in the rest of the game.
“Those guys understand the aggressiveness and how they have to play with energy,’’ Corbin said. “We got a lead and controlled the game and as long as they were playing well (I was going to leave them in). We’ve got a game (tonight), so we’ll have the guys ready to go (tonight).’’
Even though there was still more than five minutes left in the game when the Jazz completed their 10-0 run, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks threw in the towel, taking out Durant and Westbrook and clearing his bench.
With a game coming up tonight night at Minnesota, it was nice for the Jazz starters to relax on the bench and get some extra rest.
“They played great,’’ said Paul Millsap of the reserves. “It felt great to be able to sit on the bench in the fourth quarter while you’re up and watch the younger guys.’’
“They did a good job. They had me a little nervous there for a minute, but they bounced back and did what they had to do,’’ said Al Jefferson.
Usually Corbin puts his starters back in the game around the eight- or nine-minute mark of the quarter, but his reserves were doing so well, he left them in. When Durant made a dunk with 7:44 left, it looked like the time for the Jazz to start replacing the reserves.
But the reserves came through in fine style.
First, Earl Watson scored on a drive up the middle and then Burks hit a jumper. After a turnover by Westbrook, Favors scored inside off a feed from Watson to make it 100-83.
Burks hit another baseline jumper and then Favors finished the 10-0 run with a pair of free throws to make it 104-83
During the run, Durant drew the ire of the crowd when he knocked Burks hard as he drove to the basket. In a small altercation after the play, Carroll and Durant had words and Carroll was assessed a technical foul. Also, officials reviewed the play and deemed Durant’s a Flagrant 1 foul.
“I just told him, We ain’t playing dirty out here. We play dirty in the park,'’’ Carroll said. “I know I don’t have a lot of money to give away , but I’ve got to take a stand up for my young guy. (Durant) got in my face. I said, ‘It is what it is and I will see you again.’’’