"Tough Game" | Despite Double-Doubles from Markkanen and Kessler, Jazz Fall To Thunder

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

It just wasn’t Utah’s night on Friday.

Despite double-doubles from Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler, the Jazz couldn’t find enough momentum in the second half and fell 130-103 to Oklahoma City.

“That was a tough game all the way around,” head coach Will Hardy said. “Obviously, the story of the game was 26 turnovers. … You could almost end commentary about the game there. It’s really hard to win an NBA game with that many turnovers.”

After dropping a 43-point, 10-rebound double-double on the Thunder three games ago, Markkanen knew it wouldn’t be easy in the rematch on Friday. With Oklahoma City throwing multiple bodies at home and trying to be very physical, Markkanen didn’t get off to the greatest of starts after being held scoreless in the first quarter.

But part of what makes him so great is that he continues to grind and finds ways to contribute and score.

He rebounded from a slow start to finish with his 25th double-double of the season, dropping 20 points and 20 rebounds. With his shot not falling, he did a great job of staying aggressive and getting to the free throw line, where he finished 8-of-11.

Despite the loss, one of the positives on the night was the play of Simone Fontecchio.

After struggling for the last month from beyond the arc, the sharpshooting big man from Italy knocked down his first three of the game and kept it rolling. Playing more confidently and under control, he finished with 16 points on 4-of-6 from deep in 26 minutes — with season-highs in threes and minutes played.

It wasn’t the way the Jazz wanted to kick off their six-game road trip as OKC came out firing from deep, hitting 5-of-6 to lead 17-6 early.

But Utah stayed the course, responding with a 13-4 run as Kelly Olynyk and Talen Horton-Tucker found success attacking the rim. The teams would exchange buckets the rest of the quarter, with Fontecchio breaking out of a slump with eight points in the quarter.

Utah trailed 34-29 after one.

The second quarter belonged to Oklahoma City, as the Jazz had no answer for the Thunder and their shooting. Whether wide open or contested, Oklahoma City knocked everything down from deep, keeping the Jazz from making a serious run.

An and-one by Rudy Gay kept it a five-point game early in the second, but a quick 7-0 run by Oklahoma City put the Jazz behind double digits. Markkanen would answer with four quick points — his first buckets of the game — but the Thunder took control afterward.

A 10-2 run by Oklahoma City saw the Jazz trailing by 16 late in the second — but Utah kept battling. A Kessler tip shot followed by a bucket from Horton-Tucker and a three by Ochai Agbaji, and the Jazz had the deficit down to nine. However, Oklahoma City closed the half on a 13-7 run.

Utah trailed 67-52 at the break.

It felt like no matter what the Jazz did in the third, they couldn’t break through and put together a solid run. While Oklahoma City cooled down a bit from deep, albeit with much better defense from Utah, the Jazz couldn’t find a way to string together multiple good possessions together and find some momentum.

A pair of Markkanen free throws cut the deficit to 12 midway through the third, but a 5-0 Thunder run had the deficit back to 17 in the blink of an eye.

Trailing by 19 late in the quarter, the Jazz strung together their best possessions when Kris Dunn and Fontecchio hit back-to-back threes as Utah closed the quarter on a 10-4 run.

The Jazz trailed 97-74 after three.

Unable to make a run in the final 12 minutes, Hardy elected to pull his starters halfway through the fourth.

“I don’t think the intent is bad,” Hardy said. “I don’t think anybody is trying to do things on their own. … It’s some sloppy play, some bad spacing, and some guys aren’t on the same page. We are playing some different lineups, and that’s obviously a part of it, but as we’ve said all season, there are no excuses.”

“We have to find a way to improve on Sunday.”

Kessler finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks, while Olynyk chipped in 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. Dunn added 11 points, six rebounds, six assists, and three steals off the bench.

Utah will have Saturday off before returning to play the Thunder on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. MT.