The Oklahoma City Thunder looked to take a 2-0 series lead against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. However, they came up short, as the Jazz outscored OKC 28-16 in the 4th quarter, and earned a 102-95 victory. The series is now knotted at 1 game apiece and the Jazz have assumed home court advantage.
Utah came out strong once again, scoring the first nine points of the game, forcing a Thunder timeout. The Thunder immediately came back with nine point surge to tie the game. The Jazz were making it a point to get the ball in the paint. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert saw many more opportunities and Ricky Rubio was distributing the ball well. The Thunder were struggling against the Jazz’s improved defensive pressure, turning the ball over, and taking forced shots. However, the Thunder still managed to keep it close, thanks to Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The Jazz led 26-25 after the first.
It was a seesaw battle for much of the first half, neither team able to string together much of a run. The score was tied at 34 and then the Jazz went on a 6-0 run, after two threes from Joe Ingles and Rubio. The Jazz continued to punish the Thunder inside, scoring over 30 points in the first half alone. The Thunder were struggling to find offense late in the quarter. They relied on Carmelo Anthony to keep them afloat, as he scored seven points in the late stages of the quarter. The Jazz took a 53-46 lead into the locker room.
The Jazz came out of the locker room looking to take control of the game. Favors and Rubio had their confidence going, as they continued to knocked perimeter shots. The Jazz built a 67-58 lead midway through the quarter, and then the Thunder went on an avalanche run. OKC trailed by nine and were in need of offense and defensive intensity. The Thunder seemed to just flip a switch on both ends, forcing turnovers, forcing contested jumpers, and getting anything they wanted offensively. The Big 3 lead the offensive surge, scoring 15 of the 19 consecutive Thunder points. OKC went from down 9, to leading by 10. Despite the Thunder avalanche, the Jazz finished the quarter strong. Mitchell scored the final seven points for the Jazz and cut the Thunder lead in half. The Thunder led 79-74 after three.
OKC seemed to take their foot off the gas as the 4th quarter began. The Jazz quickly tied the game at 79, after Mitchell got more aggressive, taking the ball in the paint, and getting to the free throw line. The Jazz took the lead after a floater from Mitchell, then added to the lead from Rubio’s three. The Thunder found themselves struggling offensively and struggling to keep the Jazz from the paint. Westbrook started to create offense for others, getting Steven Adams and Jerami Grant easy shots. The scored was tied at 89 midway through the quarter, then Rubio hit another trey. The Jazz continued to keep the Thunder at arm’s length as the game winded down. A floater from Mitchell made the score 99-93 with 1:33 remaining. The Thunder missed four threes and the Jazz converted six out of eight free throws down the stretch. The Jazz took home a much-needed road win.
The Thunder only shot just 40% from the field and knocked down 11 out of 35 threes. They were beat on the boards 56-46 and also in the paint 50-40. The Jazz turned the ball over more than the Thunder (16-13) but the Jazz were able to score 29 points off of OKC’s turnovers.
Westbrook was just one rebound shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds. George chipped in a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Melo scored 17 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. Jerami Grant scored 13 points off the bench.
Mitchell led the Jazz with 28 points on 10-of-25 shooting. Rubio scored 21 points along with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Favors was the x-factor of tonight’s game for the Jazz, scoring 20 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. Gobert also had a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
The series will shift to Utah for games 3 and 4, and game 3 will take place on Saturday night at 9pm CT.