The pressure increases with each passing game. The Utah Jazz came into Tuesday’s game in the Western Conference’s eighth slot — but couldn't secure that position. The Oklahoma City Thunder showed why they are one of the NBA’s truly elite teams, defeating the Jazz 90-80.
While both teams played subpar basketball in relation to their respective seasons, it never felt like Utah threatened Oklahoma City. The Thunder came out well, while the Jazz seemed to lag behind in terms of energy and focus. Utah’s early shot selection and abundance of turnovers dug the Jazz into a quick deficit and they were subsequently unable to ever dig out of the hole.
In the constant seesaw battle with the Los Angeles Lakers, the loss dropped the Jazz a game below the Lakers in the loss column, pending L.A.'s late Tuesday game vs. New Orleans.
Superstar Power: One cannot discuss the Oklahoma City Thunder and neglect focusing on the superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They did exactly what superstars do: They dominated.
Durant was stellar, scoring 21 points on just 10 field goal attempts. The points may be below his 28.4 points per game average, but Durant was able to corral 12 rebounds, dole out nine assists and register three steals. He was able to make the plays when the Thunder needed them most, the sign of a perennial MVP candidate.
His running mate, Westbrook, tossed in a game-high 25 points. While he was just 8 of 21 from the floor, he was impressive with his array of athletic moves and timely 3-pointers.
Jazz Statistical Notes:
• With regulars Marvin Williams, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter out, Utah’s rotation was shortened. As a result, each of the Jazz starters played at least 32 minutes.
• Both teams shot 39 percent for the night. Only one of Utah’s eight players, Al Jefferson (7-13, 53.8 percent), made over half of his shots.
• Strangely enough the Jazz outperformed their opponents in fast-break points (14-8), as well as points in the paint (36-28).
• Thunder forward Serge Ibaka and Jazz big man Derrick Favors each swatted five shots, while affecting numerous other attempts.
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.