OKLAHOMA CITY — There is no glossy way to describe the current state of the Utah Jazz.
Entering a rebuilding year, some struggles were expected. Given the talented roster, few could have predicted a historically poor start where most of the games have been decided by the end of three quarters.
Sunday’s 95-73 blowout loss at Oklahoma City was the latest in a string of games that has contributed to a very difficult start for Utah’s young squad.
Once again, the Thunder demonstrated why they are a contender for the NBA championship. They outclassed the Jazz in every facet of the game, and while Utah’s deep reserves had a decent run in the fourth quarter, the 22-point margin does not reflect how much Oklahoma City dominated. The Thunder rested All-NBA point guard Russell Westbrook as well as Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer, who attempted only nine shots. Yet, the Thunder ran away with the game. Utah had just 30 points at halftime and 43 points at the end of three quarters.
As a result, Utah is 1-14 and remains winless on the road.
Starters’ struggles: Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin made some changes to the starting lineup with hopes of injecting some much-needed life into a quintet that has been struggling. If Sunday was any indication, he may want to continue tinkering with his opening group.
Utah starters came out flat and dug a hole that rendered the game hopeless. They looked discombobulated on both ends of the court. Their energy was lacking, their offensive execution was missing and their defensive intensity was nonexistent. Despite a sluggish start, the Thunder’s potent offense overpowered the Jazz.
None of the Jazz’s starters scratched double figures and they went a collective 12-of-39 from the floor for a lowly 30.8 percent. They mustered a mere 29 points, 30 less than their Thunder counterparts. Each of Oklahoma City’s starters had +/- of +20 or better. Gordon Hayward, Utah’s leading scorer for the season, had more turnovers (six) than points (five).
Odds and Ends:
Rudy Gobert was a bright spot for Utah. In just 10 minutes, he recorded 10 points, three rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal. Late in the game, he swatted a shot, corralled the rebound and swooped in for a dunk that resulted in a three-point play.
The Thunder’s somewhat unproven bench showed that it can contribute in some positive ways. Jeremy Lamb scored 15 points and Perry Jones added 13 — each scoring more than Utah’s leading scorer. Steven Adams added seven rebounds and some nice defensive moments.
Utah matched its 30-point opening half in the fourth quarter.
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Oklahoma shot 50.7 percent from the floor, 41.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc and 81.8 percent from the free-throw line. In comparison, Utah shot 39.4 percent from the field, missed 14-of-18 three-pointers and missed a whopping 16-of-29 attempts from the charity stripe.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.