The second Jazz-Thunder meeting of the season was not quite like the semi-blowout in Salt Lake last week. For one thing, Oklahoma City did not go entirely to pieces in the second half; in fact, the biggest OKC lead, 20 points, was attained with 3:41 left. What’s more, the Thunder defense hung around for basically the entire game: after giving up 29 points to the Jazz in the first quarter, the screws were tightened, and Utah managed only 53 points the rest of the night. The final was 97-82, dropping the Jazz to 5-11 and pulling the Thunder up to 4-12.
There were lots of numbers screaming from the box score. Perhaps the most obvious: Kendrick Perkins outscored the entire Jazz bench, 4-3. In fact, the OKC reserves were good for 44 points, including a startling 21 from Jeremy Lamb in less than 24 minutes, limited only by Lamb’s tendency to reach in, which resulted in his fouling out. Anthony Morrow added 12; curiously, he was 4-9 from three, 0-2 from closer in. Among the starters, Reggie Jackson dropped in 22 points, Serge Ibaka 20 (including 4-4 shooting in the fourth quarter), and Steven Adams came up with six points and 11 rebounds. Lance Thomas inexplicably goose-egged, which I attribute to the strain of answering questions from the Oklahoman (see this morning’s sports page).
Also inexplicable: Gordon Hayward, who led all scorers with 24 points and a career 80-percent free-throw shooter, tossed up seven bricks from the stripe, exactly as many as he made. (Then again, if we mock Hayward’s 7-14, we must mock the Thunder’s aggregate 5-10, which, minus Lamb, leaves 1-9.) Utah had no talent for treys tonight, hitting only three of 16. Still, all five of their starters made it to double figures, leaving, um, three points for the bench, all by Dante Exum. And it’s always fun to watch Enes Kanter work: he was 6-13 for 16 points tonight, and he was the only Jazzman to come close to foul trouble.
The Knicks will be here Friday. Rumors persist that the mighty Russell Westbrook might actually be back. I’ll believe it when I see it — or when I don’t see Ish Smith.
Update: For “Ish Smith,” read “Sebastian Telfair.” Smith was the hardship-exception player; however, they’re keeping him and ditching Telfair.