The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz on the road, 107-106. In a nailbiter that came down to the final seconds of play, the Thunder were able to weather a final stages push by the Jazz to hang on and earn their 4th win in a row and second over Utah this season.
Paul George continued his hot streak, finishing with 43 points on 15-25 shooting, 5-10 from three, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals. It was a good thing too, because Russell Westbrook once again struggled from the floor, missing on 14 of his 17 shots (0-4 from three) and committed 6 turnovers, though he did grab 12 boards and handed out 9 assists. Meanwhile, Steven Adams battled with Jazz center Rudy Gobert, and even as Gobert once again got the better of Adams individually (20-10 for Gobert, 15-10 for Adams), OKC was able to generate just enough offense to hold on.
OKC survived an early-game stretch where the Jazz were able to take advantage of the Thunder’s second unit, pushing ahead by 13 in the 2nd quarter. However, powered by Westbrook and George, the Thunder were able to make a late 1st half push that brought them to within 3, setting up the pivotal 3rd.
Once again, George proved the second half belongs to him. He single-handedly outscored Utah in the 3rd, 22-20 off of 7-9 shooting and 4-6 from three. OKC flipped the script on Utah, outscoring them 35-20 overall in the quarter, providing them a cushion that would ultimately be tested in the 4th. I’ll just leave this here. George’s play of late — the shooting, the passing, the rebounding, the defense — even with such a small sample size feels so much like Kevin Durant’s best stretches in OKC. Everything seems so...easy, that it is stunning when PG misses a shot or turns the ball over. He’s fully locked in, and a good thing too.
OKC struggled with any sort of offense as the game wound to a close, managing only 3 points over the first 6 minutes of play. But even then, the Thunder’s defense held firm, preventing Utah from ever getting all the way back. The Thunder’s completely stalled out after the 3:35 mark when George hit the Thunder’s last field goal of the game (Adams added a free throw later), setting up a thrilling finish.
Leading 107-103 with 2:07 remaining, OKC was able to cling to its lead until Donovan Mitchell (7-17 shooting, 2-8 from three) finished at the rim to close the gap to two. OKC struggled to inbound the ball twice following a timeout, and when Dennis Schroder finally did, Donovan took it from him. But Dennis didn’t give up on the play, stealing it right back and setting up Russell Westbrook for what OKC hoped was a game-ending play. But Westbrook missed again from three, giving the Jazz one last chance.
Mitchell took the inbound in the backcourt with 7 seconds to work and PG waiting for him. Mitchell had something for George, but Westbrook was waiting:
Russell Westbrook saved the game but blocked the shit out of that shot. pic.twitter.com/TrNhwFcEi0— Oklahoma City Thunder Digest © (@ThunderDigest) December 23, 2018
The blocked shot turned out to be a foul on Westbrook, his 6th of the night. But as Westbrook took a seat to watch things play out, Mitchell missed the front end, setting up a dramatic finish, which Mitchell once again botched by accidentally making the second. Adams smartly inbounded the ball right away to Schroder, who burned away the remaining time and stealing the road win.
The Thunder escaped Utah by the skin of their teeth, with everyone not named George struggling on the night, but they demonstrated promising resiliency. And in the end, it was enough. Barely.