There was plenty of opportunities where we had them sandwiched and we had them blocked out and we needed to go up and rebound the basketball better. —Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan
SALT LAKE CITY — Everyone was talking about the horrible shooting by Oklahoma City’s Big Three in the final quarter as being the big reason for the Thunder’s 102-95 loss to the Utah Jazz Wednesday night. And no doubt, the abysmal 0 for 14 fourth-quarter performance by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony was a big factor in the defeat that evened the season best-of-seven series at 1-1.
To coach OKC Billy Donovan, however, it started much earlier when the Thunder let the Jazz get out of the gates fast and allowed them to lead through most of the first half and continued with Utah’s dominance on the boards and at the free-throw line.
“I thought the difference in the game was on the glass and the free throw line discrepancy for us and the other part was turnovers in the first half,” Donovan said after his team’s Thursday practice. “We need to do a better job of rebounding the basketball. There was plenty of opportunities where we had them sandwiched and we had them blocked out and we needed to go up and rebound the basketball better.”
The Thunder ranked fifth in the NBA in rebounds this season and were tops in offensive boards. However, the Jazz finished with 65 rebounds to 54 for OKC with a 15-10 edge on the offensive glass.
In the turnover department, the Thunder actually had fewer than Utah — 13 compared to 14 for the Jazz — but they had eight in the first quarter alone. As for free throws, OKC had just 18 on the night, making 12 compared to the Jazz who went 23 of 33.
While rebounding and free throws favored the Jazz, Donovan still wasn’t happy with his team’s offense in the fourth quarter when it took some ill-advised shots and made just 5 of 26 from the field.
“It’s more about what kind of shots you’re generating if they’re coming inside the rhythm and flow and what we’re trying to do offensively,” Donovan said. “So it’s about making good choices. I think we had possessions throughout the game where we probably needed to do a better job of moving the ball and executing at a better level.”
OKC NOTES: The Thunder practiced in Oklahoma City Friday morning before heading to Utah . . . George, who injured his right hip in a fall in Game 1, was limited in practice before Game 2 and didn’t perform as well Wednesday, going 6 of 21 from the field and 4 for 12 from 3-point range after shooting 13 for 20 and 8 for 11 from 3-point range in Game 1. However, he had declared himself 100 percent for Saturday’s game after practicing on Thursday and Friday . . . The Thunder shot just 40 percent from the field Wednesday night on 36 of 90 and sank just 11 of 35 from 3-point range for 31.4 percent . . . The Thunder got just 21 points from their bench Wednesday night, led by Jerami Grant’s 13 points, but outscored Utah, which had just 16 bench points.