SALT LAKE CITY — While the Utah Jazz were excellent defensively throughout the regular season, they occasionally put together long stretches of individual games in which they were particularly good, shutting down the opponent to key a big run.
On Saturday night during Game 3 of the Jazz’s first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Vivint Arena, the final four minutes of the third quarter was such a run as Utah came away with a 115-102 victory to take a 2-1 series lead.
In all during the stretch, the Jazz outscored the Thunder 14-5 to stretch a five-point lead to 14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Leading 75-70 after Oklahoma City star Paul George made two free-throws with 4:09 left in the third period, the Thunder didn’t score for the next 2:41, missing six consecutive shots. Raymond Felton missed three, Russell Westbrook two and a Jerami Grant drive to the basket for a layup was blocked by Rudy Gobert.
Four of the shots were 21 feet from the basket or beyond, including all three of Felton’s attempts.
Utah’s defensive stand turned into offense on the other end of the floor. During the run, Gobert scored six points, four of which came from the free-throw line, Royce O’Neale made a wide-open 3-pointer thanks to great ball movement to stretch the lead to 10 at 80-70 (the Jazz started the stretch by scoring nine straight points), Joe Ingles scored two of his 21 points on the night and Ricky Rubio punctuated things with a 3-pointer off one foot at the buzzer heading into the fourth.
By the time Rubio’s shot went through the net, Utah held an 89-75 advantage. Oklahoma City got to within seven points in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t climb any closer than that.
The stretch wound up being a bit of an aberration for the Thunder, as they shot a solid 47 percent on the night and made 50 percent of their shots from behind the 3-point line.
From an advanced stat standpoint, the Jazz finished with a defensive rating of 104.8 (points per 100 possessions), while Oklahoma City turned in a rating of 117.5.