The first half of this game was a thing of ghastliness: the only amusing aspect of it happened in the very last second, when Russell Westbrook, looking like he was inbounding, actually bounced the ball off a Jazzman, retrieved it, and stuffed it into the net. As a result, the Thunder took a 13-point deficit into the locker room. The problem was identified quickly enough: the Jazz were playing at their preferred pace, on the slow side. Fix: speed it the hell up. In the first 5:16 of the third quarter, OKC went on a 25-7 run, going from down 13 to up five. After that, things got hairier. Utah regained a five-point lead at the the end of the third quarter. Just inside the 50-second mark, the Thunder tied it up; the ever-stalwart Gordon Hayward dropped in a jumper ten seconds later, and a seriously weird Thunder possession with all the WTF anyone could ask for ended in a timeout and finally a bucket. With one second left, Hayward made a wild pass, and OKC got the ball back; Kevin Durant got a clean look, but the ball refused to fall, and overtime ensued. And then stops ensued: OKC rolled up eight points, but the Jazz didn’t get a bucket until inside 10 seconds, and by then it was too late. Oklahoma City 104, Utah 98, and 3-0 over the Jazz this season.
Utah did a few things different this time, the most effective of which was starting Rodney Hood and Alec Burks on the wings. Hood swept to 23 points, Burks to 21, and Hayward added 22 from the frontcourt. If they’re missing Rudy Gobert, it’s not showing; they outrebounded OKC 44-42. But the Jazz were not effective from the stripe, missing eight of 20. (OKC hit 27 of 30.) The number that explains this game the best, though, is this one: 13 blocks by the Thunder, two by the Jazz. (Serge Ibaka had six of those swats.) And Durant, who had two points in the first half, wound up with 31; Russell Westbrook scored 25 and snagged 11 rebounds.
So it’s five in a row. The Trail Blazers, who have struggled a bit, will be here Wednesday night, after which it’s a quick jet to Cleveland. I think I speak for everyone here when I say “Whew.”