OKLAHOMA CITY — Don't rest assured, Jazz fans: Utah's performance Friday was a story that road woes are far from over for this team. Nineteen turnovers were costly, and a 7-of-23 performance from distance seems like something last year's team would have produced.
GUARDS: It was great to have point guard Mo Williams back — or was it? After missing three straight games due to injury, the 10th-year point guard committed three turnovers compared to six assists. Though Russell Westbrook shot just 6 of 18, he sure did fill up the box score, nearly registering a quadruple-double in the oddest way (23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and eight turnovers, along with seven steals). Westbrook's turnover count matched his highest of the season, while he never had registered so many steals in a game this fall. In another start, Randy Foye (12 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) outplayed Swiss swingman Thabo Sefolasha (6 points, 3 rebounds). GRADE: C+.
FORWARDS: Paul Millsap (13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 6 rebounds) was OK, but his counterpart Serge Ibaka was better. Though he rebounded well (seven boards) and shot effectively (6 of 8) Ibaka's seven blocks (tied for his season-high) put him over the top. Millsap has shot just 24 of 65 since going 9 of 15 Nov. 16 at Philadelphia. The Jazz were severely hampered without being able to combat Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant with the athleticism of Marvin Williams. Instead, DeMarre Carroll (4 points, 4 rebounds) got the start, seeing Durant score 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Considering Durant's 26.6 per-game average, however, it wasn't so bad. Carroll's 21 minutes marked his eighth straight game with 13 or more after getting just six and three in early November losses at San Antonio and Denver, respectively. Has he really proven to be the best option at small forward for close to half the game — the amount he has played for the past three contests? During that time, he has shot 6 of 18. GRADE: C-.
CENTERS: Al Jefferson (16 points, 11 rebounds) was edged by Kendrick Perkins (12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) because Big Al shot just 7 of 18 while Perkins was 6 of 9 and proved to best Jefferson (one assist) in passing out of the paint. Perhaps Enes Kanter (8 of 11) should have received more touches in his 15 minutes. Jefferson's five turnovers also were hampering and his most of the evening. That certainly helps the argument he shouldn't have played 39 minutes — and Kanter should have seen much more time. GRADE: C-.
BENCH: The Jazz reserves did outscore the Oklahoma City bench 36-28, led by Kanter. Gordon Hayward (13 points but on 6-of-18 shooting) was once again a liability from the field. The third-year swingman hasn't shot better than 40 percent from the field in six of the past 11 games. And sure, Derrick Favors was largely a non-factor. But shouldn't the budding star play more than nine minutes? That was his lowest single-game playing time of the season. GRADE: C+.
OVERALL: Utah on paper is better than mediocre, but the Jazz sure didn't act like it Friday night. Give them credit for causing 21 turnovers, but that was more a result of the Thunder's style of play (which also paid off, as Oklahoma City shot 52 percent). The potential boost they may have earned after playing solidly two nights earlier in New Orleans didn't manifest itself against the Hornets. Coach Tyrone Corbin must be questioned for some of his playing time allotment strategies, including limiting a hot Kanter and Favors while giving the once-again-cold Hayward 29 minutes. GRADE: C.
Rhett Wilkinson studies interesting stuff at USU, loves public affairs and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. Previously a Deseret News intern, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilklogan
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