The Oklahoma City Thunder met their first western conference foe of the new season with a showdown against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. Offensive struggles led the demise of the Thunder, and OKC fell short in their first road game, 96-87.
Russell Westbrook started the night with a smooth mid-range jumper, but would not make another field goal until the 5:34 mark of the 4th quarter. He struggled with shots, layups and free throws, only hitting 1 of 4 from the charity stripe.
A short shot from Paul George made the score 12-11 and then the Jazz went on a 9-0 run to take a 20-12 lead. The Jazz defense held the Thunder to just 14 first quarter points.
The lead opened up to 19 after a 27-7 run that kept the Thunder playing from behind the entire game. Each time the Thunder cut into the lead, the Jazz were always able to respond. George and Carmelo Anthony carried the load offensively with Westbrook struggling, but the mountain proved to be too tall to climb on this night.
There were brights on the night, as the Thunder forced 19 turnovers leading to 24 points. However, the Jazz shot 49% from the field, scored 40 points in the paint, and controlled the rebound battle 41-37. The Thunder also missed opportunities at the free throw line, only connecting on 12 out of 19 attempts.
The Jazz had a balanced scoring attack led by Joe Ingles’ 19 points, Rudy Gobert chipped in 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio contributed 16 points.
Melo paced the Thunder with 26 points, while George scored 22 points with 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Westbrook only had 6 points on the night but also chipped in 13 rebounds and 9 assists.
The Thunder will meet another Western Conference challenge tomorrow in Oklahoma City against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Next game: Sunday, Oct. 22 vs Minnesota Timberwolves, 7PM EST
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