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Oklahoma City Thunder shift into extra gear during win over Utah Jazz

From NBA media reports

* Recap: Thunder 103, Jazz 89

Panic is a staple of sports, and quite understandable late in a game or a season that hasn’t gone the way it was “supposed” to go. But panic early in a game – or worse, early in a season – is more silly than serious. And yet, some folks indulge in it, again and again.

Exhibit A: the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lately have looked like the Western Conference contender most NBA insiders and fans expected when they teamed up Paul George and Carmelo Anthony with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. The Thunder were the subject of much tongue-wagging and hand-wringing in opening the 2017-18 season with an 8-12 mark through the end of November. But look at them now, as Eric Horne of the Daily Oklahoman writes in the wake of OKC’s victory over Utah:

In a span of less than two minutes, the Thunder forced Jazz turnovers on four consecutive possessions with [Paul] George as the catalyst.

[…]

When the Thunder gave up two offensive rebounds in the start of the second half, George simply said “enough,” poking the ball away on the second rebound for the Jazz’s 11th turnover and one of his six steals.

The Thunder scored 20 points off turnovers.

“He was really active,” Donovan said. “He picked up that first foul early and you don’t want to see him with two fouls in the first quarter early and have to take him out. He did a great job. He was all over the place defensively and made a huge impact in the game.”

The Thunder kept the Jazz to 22 points or fewer in each of the first three quarters, a night after giving up 117 points against the Hawks.

The Thunder still have offensive issues to work through, and Anthony in particular will require time to adapt fully to his redefined role as a stretch four. But Oklahoma City has won four straight and is 10-3 so far in December. Leaning on an increasingly consistent defense, it is demonstrating that curiosity and concern might have been acceptable reactions to its slow trek along the learning curve, but panic? Nah, way out of proportion.

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