Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jaylin Williams
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Recap: Thunder at Jazz

The Reporters' Notebook

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com

The Big Picture

Box Score: OKC at UTA

The Thunder wanted to hit the ground running in its first game back after the All-Star Break. That’s exactly what happened in its meeting Thursday night against the Jazz. Neither team led by more than 10 points and the two squads found themselves in a battle that extended an extra five minutes into overtime where Utah narrowly edged out OKC 120-119.

OKC worked to use its speed and agility to its advantage against the large frontline of Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler by getting out in transition and punishing the Jazz in fast break opportunities. Utah, however, managed to sink timely buckets and second chance looks in the final frame and overtime – giving itself enough of a margin to take the win. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 39 points, seven assists and eight rebounds while Josh Giddey and Lu Dort both logged point-rebound double-doubles. Off the bench, Kenrich Williams chipped in a season-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. 

Observation
First Quarter

Nick: An area the Thunder has taken advantage of over the last few weeks has been its transition offense, and in the early stages of this one it was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading that charge. He hustled to grab a defensive rebound, pushed the pace, took a bump and bounced right off a Jazz defender to finish a lefty layup at the rim, demonstrating the strength and physicality he’s added over the years. A few plays later, Shai hesitated just a bit and whipped an underhand pass to a streaking Josh Giddey for a fast break layup. Out of the Thunder’s first nine points, six came in transition. In the game, Shai passed Steven Adams for fourth all-time on the Thunder’s all-time scoring list, and finished with 39 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block. 

Paris: It was rim protection by committee for the Thunder as they went up against the 7-foot frontline of Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler. In the first five minutes of action, Kessler went up for what seemed to be a wide-open layup before Lu Dort swatted the ball away out of bounds and in the opposite direction. Dort had a challenging assignment already in defending Jordan Clarkson who is responsible for 21 points per game, but demonstrated consistently his ability to not only be a point of attack defender, but a great help side and team defender as well. 

Second Quarter

Nick: Before the game Utah Jazz Head Coach Will Hardy said that “tonight is one of those nights that reminds you how long 48 minutes is” in reference to how relentless and committed the Thunder is to its desired brand of basketball. Part of that is the downhill driving attacks, and another part is the spirit that OKC plays with. Lu Dort embodied both factors on the same possession as he charged with speed and physicality to the rim. He missed a dunk on the front of the rim, but stuck with the play and cleaned up one more miss down low as well before he put the ball in the basket. Dort racked up 11 rebounds to go with 11 points in this one for his third career double-double. 

Paris: The Thunder leads the league in total charges drawn with 75 entering Thursday night’s matchup. Jaylin Williams leads all players in charges per game and continued his trend by sliding over to the elbow in help defense, setting his feet and sacrificing his body for a charge. J-Will not only demonstrated his charge-taking chops, but also showcased his offensive abilities as well by knocking down a 3-pointer in the second frame and finished the night with three overall. Williams, who stepped into his 13th start of the season, ranks first among all rookies in 3-point percentage thanks to his 45-percent clip from 3. 

Third Quarter

Paris: Jaylin Williams, who had already drawn a charge earlier in the ball game, found himself in yet another rim protection opportunity in the third frame. Lauri Markkanen lumbered down the floor in transition with J-Will trailing. Markkanen attempted a layup, but was blocked from behind by Williams who immediately used the time to get in front of the 7-footer with his feet outside of the restricted area. As Markkanen got his rebound and tried to go back up for a shot, he ran into the set frame of Williams who fell to the ground and drew yet another charge. For the rookie who is known for his ability to take charges, he also showcased his ability to also protect the rim the old fashioned way – by swatting the ball away. 

Nick: Coming out of a timeout the Thunder was creative in trying to get the ball into Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands. With the Jazz face guarding him and overplaying him on the wing, the Thunder did what it has all season and leveraged that aggressiveness against the Jazz. Kenrich Williams, one of the top 10 assist to turnover players in the NBA this season, was at the top of the key and picked out a perfectly timed baseline pass to Gilgeous-Alexander for the backdoor layup. On the next Thunder possession, it was Kenrich who was the beneficiary of a clever pass. Reading a drive down the right side of the floor by Dort, Kenrich dove in from the angle and finished easily at the rim after Dort zipped him the pass. 

Fourth Quarter

Nick: Against a tall, physical Jazz squad the Thunder had to buckle in and get physical and on an early fourth quarter possession that’s exactly what Josh Giddey did. Attacking the right baseline, Giddey drove, welcomed the contact and stayed on his line, rising up and scoring on a push shot. It was the type of play that Giddey likely wouldn’t have made last season as a rookie, but after the experience he’s racked up and the physical maturation he continues to gain, the 20-year-old is finding more ways to use his size and frame to impact the game. Giddey went for 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists on the night for his 20th double-double of the season.  

Paris: It was all tied up at 95 coming out of the timeout in crunch time. Kenrich Williams quickly made an impact. The vet knocked down a big time catch and shoot 3-pointer in the first possession out of the timeout and then got a defensive rebound and finished a layup in transition to make it a two-possession game. Just a few possessions later, the vet sank another 3-pointer on the right wing with just over two minutes left to play to bring his total up to eight points in crunch time and 16 for the game – a new season high.

Quotables

“The locker room was disappointed, which is a good thing. It means we're invested in the game and the best part about that one is a lot of what we could control in the fourth quarter and overtime led us down. It wasn't one that we can write off on luck and those are the best losses if they hurt, and you can look back on them and see that you could control that in the game and learn from that.” –Coach Daigneault

“It's definitely controllable. It's definitely encouraging. Just the little things that we can work on, that we can fix not only for the next time we see them but before the game tomorrow.” —Kenrich Williams

What's Next

It’s a quick turnaround for the Thunder, who flies south to Phoenix to take on the Suns in the second game of a road-road back to back. After a day off on Saturday, the Thunder will start a 6-game homestand on Sunday with the first of a two-game mini-series against the Sacramento Kings. 

Thursday's Photos

By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder