Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter

The Big Picture

In front of a full house in Vivint Arena, the Thunder tipped off its regular season against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. It was a litmus test for OKC after three weeks of training camp and four preseason games worth of tune-ups to go up against the efficient offense of the Jazz and the defensive prowess of reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. While the Thunder fell 107 to 86, there were plenty of lessons to take away as the team continues to build and layer onto the identity it has worked to establish throughout Training Camp.

Moments from the 48

Rookie Debuts
Wednesday night’s matchup was the first official taste of NBA action for rookies Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Vít Krejčí – and in the raucous environment of the Utah crowd. Robinson-Earl led the way with 10 points while Mann added nine of his own. Giddey pulled down 10 boards which marked a record for rebounds by a Thunder player in their NBA debut.

“They went out there and competed. They didn’t look overwhelmed at all,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “They competed, played to the game plan and gave us good minutes.”

Baze Above the Rim
Thunder forward Darius Bazley sized up Bojan Bogdanovic on the right wing. After a quick jab step, the third year forward attacked hard toward baseline where he was met with the size of Jazz center Hassan Whiteside. Unfazed, Bazley elevated and threw down a two-handed slam while taking on contact for an and-one play. It was one of two back-to-back slam dunks for Bazley who finished the game with 15 points and seven rebounds.

A Favor-able Return
Thunder big man Derrick Favors spent 10 years of his career in Salt Lake City and received a warm welcome upon his return to Vivint Arena. With a standing ovation after starting lineups and a tribute video in the first quarter, the veteran felt the love from the Utah crowd in his first game back.

“That was my first time seeing the visiting locker room,” Favors said with a chuckle. “It was a good experience for me and I enjoyed coming back.”

Good Takeaways
Despite the loss, the Thunder walked away from the matchup against Utah with several positive takeaways. Offensively, OKC attempted 18 free throws compared to 15 for Utah while also pulling down 15 offensive boards compared to Utah’s 12. Defensively, the Thunder held the Jazz, who led the league in 3-pointers attempted and made last season, to just 29 percent shooting from deep as well as zero fast break points.

“We did a lot of good things against a really, really good team,” Daigneault said. “There’s a lot of lessons we can draw from it and its good to play against a team like them because they’re going to expose the things that you need to improve at and we’re going to get to work to improve those.”

Kenny Hustle’s Efficient Return
After missing the Thunder’s four preseason games due to a bruised toe, Thunder wing Kenrich Williams saw his first action of the 2021-22 season on Wednesday. In his 15 minutes of playing time, Williams logged seven points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and enjoyed every second of action with his teammates.

“Just being out there with the guys, it means a lot,” said Williams. “I was missing competing with the guys. Even though we didn’t get the win, it felt great to be out there.”

The Last Word

Derrick Favors on the team’s night overall
“We played hard, we played competitive. It’s a learning process. We went against probably one of the best teams in the league, obviously a playoff team trying to win a championship and for us we’re a young team. We’ve still got a lot to learn, still got a lot to do with a lot of young players and I thought that for the most part I think we came out and we played good but going up against a team like that it's tough. It's tough for anybody but we got a lot to learn.”

What’s Next

The Thunder will head to Houston where the group will practice before facing the Rockets on Friday. From there, the team returns home to Oklahoma City and Paycom Center where they’ll host the Philadelphia 76ers for their regular season home opener on Sunday at 6 pm CT.



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