Lu Dort
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Wire-to-Wire Win Over Utah

The Reporters' Notebook

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson |

Highlights: OKC 130, UTA 103

The Big Picture

Box Score: OKC 130, UTA 103

It was fitting that Friday night was the kick-off to Thunder Legacy Weekend, because that resilience and ability to break through adversity has been a staple in Oklahoma City over the last 15 years that the team has been here. As former Thunder players streamed into town to be honored inside Paycom Center, the newest iteration of the team paid homage to the values and legacy that has been left by every player who has worn a Thunder jersey. 

Since the All-Star Break the Thunder has been relentless of its pursuit, steady in playing its offensive style but coming up short in its ability to string together enough stops to get a win. Some of that was variance in opponent shot-making but some was in OKC’s control. 

At the very outset of Friday night’s 130-103 wire-to-wire victory against the Jazz, the Thunder delivered the type of punch it had been looking for, then amped up the defense-to-offense machine even further for a runaway victory. The Thunder set a season-high with 26 turnovers forced tonight by Utah that led to 32 OKC points. This is the 17th time the Thunder has forced 20-or-more turnovers this year and the seventh time it has scored 30-or-more points off turnovers. On offense, the Thunder got six guys into double figures for the 18th time this season, as a part of a 29-point effort. 

First Quarter

Paris: The Thunder has focused on getting out to strong starts on both ends of the floor. Against the Jazz, its offense threw the first punch in the opening five minutes of action. Of its first six made baskets, five of them came from behind the 3-point line. Lu Dort, Isaiah Joe and Jaylin Williams were all responsible for a triple in the opening minutes and gave the Thunder an early 11 point lead. By the end of the first half, OKC cashed in 13-made triples - tying the most by the Thunder in a half this season and the second most in Thunder history.

Nick: The Thunder leads the NBA in charges per game and offensive fouls drawn, and in the opening five minutes of this one OKC proved why that’s the case. First it was Joe who busted around a screen and forced an illegal screen by keeping his feet moving and being gritty to try and get back in front of his man. A few possessions later, Dort was bodying up Utah’s leading scorer Lauri Markkanen as he tried to post up. Remaining physical, Dort accepted the contact until Markkanen got over-aggressive and bowled him over as he tried to attack. Dort was a massive presence on Markkanen in the first quarter, holding the All-Star scoreless on just one shot attempt. The last time these squads met, Markkanen scored 43 points, but for the game tonight he scored just 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting. 

Second Quarter

Paris: Jalen “J-Dub” Williams was fresh off of a 24-point performance against the Lakers as he started against the Jazz. He kept his foot on the gas offensively as he racked up 12 first half points. The rookie played multiple roles offensively, playing off the ball in the first five and then the primary ball handler with the second unit. Throughout the season, the coaching staff has pushed him to play more aggressively on offense and each time the ball was in J-Dub’s hands we saw that aggression come to light in multiple ways - whether it was a quick-strike drive to the rim or a sidestep midrange jumper. With his 20 total points, the rookie moved into second all-time in Thunder rookie scoring. Williams also six rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block. 

Nick: A pair of heads up plays by the Thunder helped fuel a 33-23 second quarter edge for OKC. Aaron Wiggins kept his head on a swivel and kept his hands active to tip away a loose ball to help force one of the 26 turnovers coughed up by the Utah Jazz on the night. On the runout, Wiggins attacked in transition, double-clutched and then put up a lefty layup on the right side of the rim, which was goaltended for two Thunder points. Later in the quarter, Dario Šarić was posted up down low and two Jazz defenders raked at the ball but the Thunder newcomer wouldn’t allow it to happen. Refusing to be stripped and sticking with the play, Šarić recovered the ball and then used his court awareness to pick out a pass to a cutting Jalen Williams for an easy layup. It was one of 29 Thunder assists in the game. 

Third Quarter

Paris: Coming out of the first timeout of the second half, the arena blasted hard core rock-and-roll over the loudspeakers as Utah inbounded the basketball. The same frenetic energy of the song also pulsed through the Thunder who implemented a full court press on the Jazz right out of the break. The pressure caught the Jazz by surprise and Lu Dort was able to snatch away a steal and force Utah’s 22nd turnover of the night. Dort had been a menace defensively throughout the entire game and midway through the third, he logged three steals, a block and a charge drawn. By the end of the night - OKC’s defensive stopper racked up four steals in addition to 19 points on four-made 3s. 

Nick: Josh Giddey went into halftime with nine assists, five shy of his career-high and got his teammates going again offensively with a pair of assists early in the third quarter. Later in the quarter though, Giddey started to get in on the action more with his own scoring. As Dort drove through the middle of the lane, Giddey cut briskly down the slot and scored easily on the diving layup. A few possessions later, Giddey attacked on a hard-charging drive and missed the layup but stuck with the play and finished off his own second chance. For the game, Giddey racked up his 22nd double-double of the season and the 38th of his career, the most in OKC history for anyone under 21 years old. Giddey finished with 18 points, six rebounds and 13 assists. 

Fourth Quarter

Paris: Aaron Wiggins leaked out in transition after a defensive rebound from J-Dub. The rookie zipped the ball ahead to Wiggins who smoothly avoided the arms of the defense and laid the ball in gracefully off the backboard. On the next possession, Wiggins stepped into a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer  for his 15th point of the game. Wiggins, who has shown impressive reliability in his unreliable role in the rotation, implemented his activity on both ends of the floor and played a vital role in the pace that the Thunder played with in the second unit. For the night, Wiggins finished with a season-high 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field.

Nick: Ousmane Dieng had spent the last few weeks with the Oklahoma City Blue, but as a part of his player development plan tonight was an opportunity for him to get him some extended minutes in a more relevant situation for his overall growth. Dieng, at 19 years old, is on a long development track with years ahead of him to improve, but demonstrated some nice resilience and solid instincts. On one play Dieng was out in the open floor and did what his coaches have wanted him to all season, rising up for what would have been a ferocious one-handed slam. He got blocked at the apex on that dunk attempt, but instead of letting that bother him, Dieng stuck with it and stayed aggressive. A few possessions later, the rookie was rushing in on a second chance to tip in a missed shot as a part of a nine-point, four-rebound, two-assist line in 21 crucial development minutes. 


“All you can predict is that if you get to 0-and-0 every day and you just stack days, stack possessions, get better, learn throughout your experiences, that'll take you as far as you can go. That's going to be our goal. It's been our goal forever. It's gonna be our goal forever.” –Coach Daigneault 

“We’ve just got a lot of trust. We know that our team has got our backs and when we get beat or whatever we’re just in the lane and it's tough for them to make a play. So I felt like we were all in the right position and we did good tonight.” –Lu Dort

“Tonight it was all about just trying to make sure that we stay locked in on the way that we play, stay true to what we do. We’ve got some guys down so it was just about trying to push through that wall.” –Aaron Wiggins 

What's Next

The Thunder and Jazz will square off again on Sunday night in the fifth game of this six-game homestand. After that one, OKC hosts the Golden State Warriors on the front end of a home-road back to back as the team heads to Phoenix to take on the Suns.

Friday's Photos

By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder