It’s been 143 days since the Oklahoma City Thunder last played basketball.
Well, it seems the break did them good because they restarted their season in the best possible way by blowing out the Utah Jazz 110-94.
The Thunder had control over the Jazz from tipoff.
Here are ten notes from the Thunder’s impressive win against Utah:
- This was a balanced scoring attack by OKC as six of their players scored in double digits this game. The Thunder were getting any shot they wanted in this game, scoring 66 points on 64.9 FG% in the first half. The Thunder had no issue attacking the paint against the best rim protector in the league.
- While the offense was excellent, the defense was much better and played a more significant role in this win. The Jazz struggled big-time, developing any offensive rhythm, never finding their niche when they had the ball. Lu Dort did a marvelous job at suffocating Donovan Mitchell all game long, making it difficult to create any space and forcing Mitchell to take tough shots to produce 13 points on 15 shots. The Jazz continued the awful shooting as they went a combined 16-of-65 (24.6%) from the 3-point line in their last two games. The Thunder are the first team in the bubble to hold their opponent to less than 100 points by holding Utah to just 94 points on 39.1% shooting. The loss of Bojan Bogdanovic continues to hurt Utah as his outside shooting and ability to create his offense is dearly missed.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only scored 19 points, but the way he scored those 19 was awe-inspiring and showed glimpses of the type of player Shai could be. The first half saw a pair of plays where Shai was able to attack the basket and finesse his way around Rudy Gobert’s reach to make a layup and Shai hitting his newly added stepback three moves. Shai’s calmness and fundamentally sounded game continue to impress.
- The two vets who had not such good scrimmages played vital roles in this domination early on. Danilo Gallinari set the tone early on by scoring 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter and helped OKC build a double-digit lead early on that they never gave up. Paul was tearing the Jazz defense apart whenever he had the ball, making the right passes, and taking the right shots in the mid-range. Paul finished with 18 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds. Paul has historically done well against this Jazz team, and that domination continued in today’s game by finding mismatches off of switches that he would look to score against.
- In the battle of the big men, Steven Adams outplayed Gobert with his 16 points and 11 rebounds double-double. Adams was able to convert on his paint shots at a successful rate against Gobert. In his post-ups, Adams was able to shoot off good looks despite one of the best defensive big men in the league guarding him in the paint. As has been the case in the bubble, Adams looked refreshed and was filled with energy. Nerlens Noel did an excellent job at giving Adams a breather and held his own against Gobert, a matchup Quin Synder tried taking advantage of but never really could. Noel finished with four blocks and six rebounds. This is off-topic, but I forgot just how much Nerlens falls to the floor.
- Dennis Schroder finished with 13 points on five of eight shooting but had a bad stretch of possessions in the second half where he would force it on some drives that cause the Thunder offense to stumble a bit. It didn’t hurt the Thunder in the long run of this game. Still, with the attack running so smooth and effortless with the ball movement and shot distribution, an old habit of Schroder’s popped up late in the game where Oklahoma City would try to build their lead and put the finishing touches of impressive performance.
- Off the bench, Darius Bazley scored an efficient 10 points on four of six shooting that included a pair of made threes. Bazley looked comfortable on defense and was able to stay springy on his feet. It is essential to point out that Bazely played 29 minutes while Andre Roberson played just five. Both players will be fighting for the backup forward minutes. Roberson matched up on Mitchell when they were both on the court, and Roberson did a decent job at following Mitchell even if Donovan was able to score on him.
- Hamidou Diallo continues to play more than Terrance Ferguson since the NBA restart. Diallo played well in his 20 minutes of action as he scored nine points and made both of his three-point attempts. Diallo is excellent when it comes to crashing the glass and fighting for a board. Ferguson played just four minutes of garbage time.
- Some questionable calls against the Thunder were made with Adams and Gallinari. In Danilo’s case, he received a flagrant one for crashing into Royce O’Neale in transition in an attempt to swipe the ball out of his hands. Many would argue that it was a basketball move on Danilo’s part to swipe the ball out of O’Neale’s hands. With Adams, he was T’d up for taking on a running hook shot in the post where he elbowed Gobert in the face. The referees deemed it as a hostile act. I can understand why the refs would view it as such, but I disagree with it, in my view, it was just another basketball move with no ill intentions behind it.
- The Thunder take Sunday off and play their next game against the Nuggets on Monday at 3 pm. The Nuggets were blown out in the game before against the Heat as Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and Gary Harris all missed the game. It seems like the Nuggets will approach these last eight games as just court time to regain team chemistry and get healthy, which could result in them losing more games. The Thunder could gain a game and be 0.5 games back from the Nuggets in the standings if they were to win this contest.