OKLAHOMA CITY — The Utah Jazz got a glimpse of what the regular season’s opening game might be like Sunday, and the results weren’t all that good.
Utah struggled to make shots again, resulting in a frustrating 88-82 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena to extend the losing streak to four games this preseason.
“We’re not shooting the ball very well, hesitating on open looks, and we’ve got to take what they give us more,” Jazz guard Gordon Hayward said. “If you’re open, shoot it. If you’re not, make a play or pass.”
The Jazz are now 1-4 in the preseason heading into a three-game stretch in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers to close out the preseason. Oklahoma City and Utah will meet to open the regular season on Oct. 30 at EnergySolutions Arena.
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin used Sunday’s game against the powerful Thunder as a measuring stick of how far his team has come through the first five games.
“I think our defense is coming along and I think our defense is ahead of where the offense is,” he said. “We’ve got to find ways to get the ball in the basket, though. You want a combination of the two sides together.”
The Jazz shot just 38.2 percent from the floor and made just 56.3 percent of their free throws, creating an early and insurmountable deficit.
Hayward, though, was a bright spot on both sides of the floor, scoring 18 points on 6 of 14 shooting and limiting Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant to just five points in 18 minutes of work.
“You’ve got to be physical with him and contest every look,” Hayward said of guarding Durant. “He’s a great player and scorer for sure in every way. You just try to stick with him and compete against him.”
But Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson was a problem for the Jazz, scoring 18 points and dishing out six assists in the absence of All-Star Russell Westbrook, who is out with a knee injury. Forward Serge Ibaka also scored 17 points and rookie center Steven Adams scored six and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Thunder (4-1) led by as many as 16, but also failed to make shots, finishing with a lower shooting percentage than the Jazz at 37.8 percent and also committing 18 turnovers.
The Jazz hung with Oklahoma City in the first quarter until an 11-2 run put Utah behind 23-14 at the end of the quarter. The Thunder then put the foot on the gas pedal, increasing the lead to 16 with 5 minutes left in the half on a fast-break layup by Jackson.
Utah attempted to make a comeback in the fourth quarter with mostly reserves on the floor, getting within six points with just less than three minutes remaining.
That was a period Corbin said he saw some good things from some players trying to make the team and point guard Alec Burks, who finished with 10 points and two assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
“Alec, he has done that for us in the past and we will do it while we’re short-handed here with Trey (Burke) being out,” Corbin said. “I thought they played hard. We didn’t do necessarily the right thing all the time, but I thought they played hard for the most part. I thought defensively, again, we were better than on offense.”
Jazz center Enes Kanter, who scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, was not pleased with the end result, even admitting he was frustrated with another loss.
“We’ve got to figure something out,” he said. “It don’t matter. Preseason or real season, I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. We’ve got to figure something out — offensively or defensively I don’t know — but we’ve got to figure something out.”
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
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