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Thunder defense clamps down on Jazz win streak

David Locke

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SUMMARY:  Oklahoma City Thunder stifling defense brings them back from 17 down to overcome the Jazz in the 4th quarter and win.

  • Oklahoma City entered the game as the 4th best defense in the NBA and the #1 team forcing turnovers. Their length is obvious and there lateral quickness closes gaps in a hurry.  The Jazz weren’t able to get the blender going the same way they had on other nights.  Jazz finished with 18 turnovers and only 18 assists tonight.

 

  • Even when the Jazz players did the right thing, which was to drive and break the paint the defense cut them off and never left the shooters, so passing lanes to get the ball back out and swing it around closed down and that stymied the offense.

 

  • This was a hard game to play on both sides. An exhausting game to play.  Couple that with the back to back and the Jazz ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and were never able to stem the momentum tide of the Thunder.   The Thunder outscored the Jazz 32 to 14 in the 4th

 

  • The biggest stretch of the game was to open the 4th The Thunder (read Russell Westbrook) had thrown everything at the Jazz to close the 3rd quarter and they were still able to hold to a 12 point lead.   The Thunder have been bad this year with Westbrook on the bench but by the time he re-entered the game it was a 6 point game.   The Jazz had a line-up of Rubio, Burks, O’Neale, Seolosha and Gobert on the floor to start the quarter.   They scored 2 points in the opening 3 minutes of the quarter.   That is where the injuries to Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson and even Dante Exum hurt a bit as they would have all been on the floor.  When you play a really good team or at least a high talent team that is when those items get exposed.

 

  • The Jazz didn’t hit some of the shots they have been making. The Jazz have been making shots at ridiculous rate recently.   They entered the game as the 3rd best three point shooting team, tonight they came back to life a bit and the speed and length of the Thunder made those looks a little less good.

 

  • The Jazz finished the night 11 of 33 from 3. The great thing with that is the Jazz took 42% of their shots as threes.  That is how the Jazz are going to win games and to be able to get those off against a team of OKC caliber is a great script for winning.

 

  • The Jazz hit 5 of 9 from three in the first quarter when they were slicing the Thunder defense for open corner looks. Then they went cold going 1 for 9 in the 2nd quarter when they looked visibly tired.   In the third the Jazz hit 4 of 7 from three but in the 4th they went cold (or tired) again going 1 for 8 from three.

 

  • The Jazz only played Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert together for 5 minutes tonight. They were +6 in those limited minutes.  The success the Jazz have had with the spread floor is clearly the model Quin Snyder is using moving forward.

 

  • Donovan Mitchell had the toughest match-up of his career tonight with Andre Roberson and Paul George guarding him. When Mitchell was drafted one of the knocks on him was his lack of size.   This would be the scenario where that was a problem.  Undersized shooting guard with the exceptional length of Roberson and George.   Roberson is the best on ball defender in the NBA.   There are Western Conference all-stars who wilt when they match up with Roberson over the last few years.   Mitchell instead had 31 points on 11 of 22 shooting.  This night in some manners is as impressive to me as his 41 point night v. the Pelicans because of the level of difficulty.

 

  • Mitchell did make some mistakes late in the game. He tried to throw a pass to Rudy Gobert but Gobert had moved into rebounding position.  It was an interesting idea.  He tried to go away from a screen, I believe because the Thunder had started doubling him off the pick and roll, but he moved right back into Roberson who bloked his shot.  He went 3 for 6 in the 4th quarter, which is pretty good for a youngster.

 

  • He has scored 20 or more in 10 of his first 24 games. I don’t believe LeBron did that.

 

  • On the other side of the ball he was guarding Paul George and Russell Westbrook for significant periods of the evening. He held his own.

 

  • Steven Adams was the game changer for the Thunder. Adams had 20 points and 9 rebounds and outmuscled the Jazz bigs all night long.  He is a mammoth man.  The Thunder have re-integrated him into the offense and it may have changed their season.

 

  • This was impressive by the Thunder. They were down 17 and if they lost the story would have been they were losers of 6 of their last 9.  Instead they will now be talking about a 3 game win streak.  They had to have this game and they came together to defend and make the plays they needed to make.  They are tough to stop with those three guys.   They are isolation based and I am not sure it will work, but it is still tough to stop Westbrook or Anthony one on one and George is a shooter.  For the one or two possessions when they have to score they will be tough.

 

  • That was a tough one tonight to be up 17 and not close it out, but it was also a tough script from the start. The most impressive thing was to be able to get to up 17 on the Thuder in their building.

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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