Coming off of Saturday’s triumph over the Charlotte Hornets, the Oklahoma City Thunder sat a top the Western Conference, being the only perfect team at 1-0. These ambitions of staying at the top of the standings are no more as the Thunder fell just short of victory, falling to the Jazz 109-110.
From the jump the Thunder were active, hitting four three balls along with a 10-foot SGA pullup to take an early 14-4 lead. Luguentz Dort and Al Horford immediately popped out from three point land in the first shooting 2-3 a piece from downtown. The Jazz struggled to find any success from deep in the first going just 1-6 compared to the Thunder’s 5-13, however they found success with Mike Conley. Conley, dropped eight points in the first quarter alone, pushing the Jazz back in the game as they were only trailing to the Thunder 22-24 in the 1st.
In the second quarter, things remained the same as the Thunder jumped out to a great start going on a 10-0 run with seven minutes to go in the quarter. Dort tacked on 13 points by halftime and his solid start from outside allowed him to find pathways inside and get an open shot or man. The Thunder were blistering hot from downtown reaching double-digits in threes made, shooting 10 of 22 from deep, This accolade had only been reached three times in the Thunder’s prior season. The Jazz attempted to return fire on triples, but they simply could not find the stroke in the half, going just 4-16 from 3. Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s leading scorer was held to just 2-10 by half and seemed to be a non-factor in the game. Even with Donovan’s struggles, the Jazz still found themselves in the game, with the Thunder leading 52-49.
Both teams seemingly flipped a switch in the third quarter, as both team’s playstyles were polar opposites of those in the first half. The Jazz erupted early, going on a 17-9 run in the first three minutes, putting themselves up 66-61. The remarkable factor was that the Jazz 12 of those 17 points came off threes. In total, they hit 21 of their 35 points from beyond the arch. Bojan Bogdanovic (who ended the game with 23 points), scored 14 points in the quarter. Donovan Mitchell still remained ice cold going entering the 4th shooting 3-16, a product of Lu Dort’s excellent defense. For the Thunder, they found their scoring opportunities inside, with 24 of their 35 points in the quarter coming from in the paint, an area the Thunder only dropped 16 points in all the first half. With both teams playing so well in there respective areas, they showings of 35 points a piece had the game at 87-84 in the Thunder’s favor.
The fourth quarter was stapled by runs. The Thunder started the quarter on an 8-2 run to put them up 95-86. The Jazz bounced right back with a 7-0 run to close that gap to just two, but the Thunder returned fire busting it back open to a 7-point lead with seven to go.
The Jazz were running high pick-and-rolls at will all throughout the game, but they found most of their success in that area in the fourth. Al Horford, who was usually involved on screens, stayed back allowing for wide open shots for the Jazz. In giving Jazz players open looks, Donovan Mitchell was finally able to make an impact in the game. He was scoring at will piling on mid range shots, and dug the Jazz out from behind and into the lead with just over five to go in the game.
What ensued was a four minute chess-match between Mitchell and SGA as both players accounted for almost all the points in the game until the final minute arrived. The game was at a standstill with the Jazz up 109-108 with two to go, and it seemed like the score would not move as time ticked down.
Suddenly, pandemonium broke out with 1:18 to go as after a rejected Bazley layup and SGA miss, the Thunder came down with an offensive rebound with Luguentz Dort wide open in the wing. Dort was passed the ball and after waiting a second he cashed in taking the Thunder lead 110-109. After a Jazz miss the Thunder had a 2 for 1 opportunity with 40 seconds to go, they opted to hold the ball the full 24 seconds with George Hill having to jack up a prayer with 15 seconds left.
Off a Jazz timeout, Donovan Mitchell was given a one-on-one match with Dort, Mitchell passed by and dropped in a two-foot layup with seven to go. The Thunder called a timeout of their own and gave Al Horford the inbound, after a hand off to SGA, he drove in and jacked up a contested off-balance layup that was just short off the glass. Jazz win 110-109.
The Thunder had four players in double-figures with Luguentz Dort headlining the team.
Luguentz Dort put up 26 points on 7-9 shooting (5-7 3pt), 2 rebounds, an assist, and two steals in 32 minutes. Dort displayed excellence on both ends of the floor, on offense shooting the lights on from really all areas of the court, and on defense absorbing what might as well been hundreds of Rudy Gobert screens and contesting Donovan Mitchell.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tallied 23 points on 9-21 shooting (1-7 3pt), 3 rebounds, and 7 assists in 36 minutes. SGA was looking to create shots from the perimeter but for the second game in a row his money maker was coming from the inside. He found tons of success when operating in the lane and found players wide open when the shot was not there. The only real negative to SGA’s performance was that he could not find a shot outside, but it was nice to see him shoot confidently from deep.
Al Horford and George Hill were both also able to chip in 11 and 14 points respectively. The majority of Horford’s points came from the three ball while Hill’s point came from crafty finishes inside.
The Thunder will have a chance to redeem themselves as they finish their back to back set vs. Orlando (3-0) Tuesday evening.