Darius Bazley
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Game Recap: Thunder vs. Jazz

Highlights: OKC vs. UTA

BOX SCORE: OKC vs. UTA

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

THE BIG PICTURE

OKC fought and battled against the Jazz who hold the number one offense in the NBA. Despite trailing by as many as 23 points in this one, the Thunder rallied back in the fourth quarter to make it an eight-point ball game. However, the 3-point line proved to be the difference-maker as the Jazz sank 23 triples for the night and sealed the deal with a couple of timely daggers down the stretch.

MOMENTS FROM THE 48

Counting by Three

Utah, who averages the second most 3-pointers made per night, spent the night counting by threes. The Thunder counted by twos. 

The Jazz began its 3-point onslaught early with eight triples in the first quarter alone. Utah’s Bogdan Bogdanović led the charge for the Jazz as he poured in four of his career-high 11 3-pointers in the opening quarter and helped build up a lead of as many as 18 points over that time frame.

The Thunder, meanwhile, found its success inside the paint. By playing a smaller lineup against the looming paint presence of Rudy Gobert, the Thunder was able to stretch the floor and pull the Stifle Tower out from under the rim. This opened the paint for the Thunder, who thrives on paint touches, to get to the rim for quality looks without a shot blocker. 

By the end of the first, the Thunder outscored the Jazz 12-2 in paint points and finished the game with a season-high-tying plus-26 differential in points in the paint. It was that effort at the rim that propelled the squad back into the ball game on several occasions. 


The biggest OKC surge took place in the fourth quarter where the Thunder trailed by as many as 18 points but rallied back to make it an eight-point ball game with just under three minutes remaining in the game. 

However, it was the 3-point line that proved the be the difference-maker between the two teams as Bogdanovic sank two dagger 3-pointers to bolster Utah’s lead and squander the Thunder’s attempt at a comeback. 

“We just kind of kept it within distance going into halftime and then we sharpened up in the in the second half on both ends of the floor,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “A couple things go our way or a couple less things go theirs and it's more of a game but really pleased with the effort tonight of our team and the level of execution and focus."

Block Party

With Isaiah Roby as a late scratch in the starting lineup due to low back soreness, Thunder forward Darius Bazley slid over to the center spot with the matchup of the much bigger Rudy Gobert. Bazley didn’t back down. 

The third year forward leads the team in blocks and finished the night with two swats against the Jazz’s center. Bazley wasn’t the only one who got involved in the block party. 

Thunder two-way rookie Lindy Waters III had perhaps the most emphatic block of the night as he absolutely erased a dunk attempt by Jordan Clarkson in transition. Waters finished the night with a pair of blocks and the Thunder outpaced the Jazz 9-4 in blocks for the night.

“I just think it’s habits we’re trying to build,” said Bazley. “Seeing Lindy go contest that dunk at the rim in transition, that was good to watch. It felt good to see it through my eyes. Usually it's me. It felt good to see it. Everyone tries to take on that attitude.”

“We want to be a team that competes at the rim and competes in the paint,” said Daigneault. “We want to do that on both ends of the floor and we’ve got to have guys willing to stick their noses in plays and I thought we did that tonight. There was the size differential at the basket and I don't think that deterred us from really leaning into the fight. I was impressed by our effort."

Shai’s Streak

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 33 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, four steals and zero turnovers. The fourth-year guard has now scored 30 or more points in five of his last six contests while scoring 20 or more in each of those games. The six-game streak with 20-plus points ties the longest streak of Gilgeous-Alexander’s career. 

“It speaks for itself. Obviously. He's really cooking,” said Daigneault. “I thought tonight he really had good attacks and good balance against a really tough defense to crack.”

Pokuševski’s Double-Double

The Thunder stole the ball at half court and advanced it up to Aaron Wiggins on the perimeter. Aleksej Pokuševski was trailing the play, running full speed down the middle of the floor. Wiggins zipped the ball to the 7-foot Serbian who caught the ball near the top of the key and without a single dribble, soared through the middle of the paint and rolled the ball over the front of the rim for two points. 

The layup was a demonstration of one of the ways Pokuševski has taken strides this season. The second-year big man has demonstrated more control over his body while also making quicker and sharper reads on both ends of the floor. For the night, Poku finished with a 12-point, 11-rebound double doble while also logging a block and an assist. 

(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

THE LAST WORD

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the fight to the finish…

“We fought, we competed and we played together for sure. Not everything went our way tonight. Shots didn't fall, open ones, good ones. They made a lot of shots, but we competed and we played together.”

“I thought we did a really good job of sticking to our game plan. They shot the ball really well and got out to an early lead. But we did a really good job of just continuing to trust what we had going into the game and cutting the lead and given ourselves a chance. They continued to make shots down the stretch and regardless of what we were able to do it just wasn't good enough, but I thought we did a really good job just kind of competing and continue to play our game and give ourselves a chance.”

Aaron Wiggins on the bounce back effort

WHAT'S NEXT

The Thunder has one more game in its three-game homestand and it takes place on Tuesday against the reigning NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks.