Rudy Gobert is the center of the Utah Jazz, in several senses of the word; his absence from this afternoon’s game proved to be a serious handicap to the team — but not the sort that kills a team’s hopes, even with Derrick Favors also sidelined. The Utah bench rose to the occasion, and then some: no Jazz starter managed double figures, but the reserves definitely carried their weight, with Dante Exum scoring a career-high 22 points and Alec Burks picking up 21 more. If the Thunder thought this was going to be easy, their wake-up call came quickly enough: a 20-plus-point lead was almost entirely erased in the fourth quarter, waiting for Russell Westbrook to take over the game. Which, of course, Westbrook did, going 33-11-14 and sinking 12 of 13 free throws. And so it was that the Thunder would win the season series, 3-1, with a 112-104 victory over the visiting Utahns, pulling OKC to within four games of the Jazz for the Northwest Division lead.
The Jazz did shoot decently — 48 percent, nine of 20 treys — and pulled off nine steals. The Thunder owned most of the rest of the statistics, though, and any day that Gordon Hayward is held to nine points, the Jazz are going down. Victor Oladipo did another of his patented 20-pointers (22, actually), and the Stache Brothers collected double figures, 11 for Steven Adams starting and 16 for Enes Kanter off the bench. (Kanter, obtained from Utah, generally does well against his former team.) Taj Gibson started up front, but was pulled in the second half with what appeared to be a minor hip ailment.
Coming up next: a two-game Chill Factor tour, starting with Brooklyn (Tuesday) and then moving to Toronto (Thursday). In this time slot next week: the Sacramento Kings come to town.