The Thunder came into Utah carrying two consecutive losses by 20+ points, while the Jazz were riding a 6-game win streak. That all changed by the end of the night as the Thunder defeated the Jazz 97-95 in a nail-biter that came down to the very last second.
Oklahoma City started the game off strong, leading by as much as 8 in the first quarter, before ending the period with a 27-26 lead. The Thunder continued their consistent play in the second quarter, and despite a rough final 30 seconds, entered halftime with a 56-53 lead.
The third quarter definitely did not go the way the Thunder planned as they could not buy a bucket. Luckily, they played solid enough defense, and despite only scoring 11 points, entered the final period trailing 67-72. Utah started off the final quarter with 4 quick points to take their largest lead of the night at 9, and then Oklahoma City slowly began their comeback. With 4:32 left in the game, the Thunder tied it up at 84-84, and the lead went back and forth for the rest of the game.
With 12.9 seconds left in the game and Oklahoma City clinging to a 3-point lead, the Utah Jazz inbounded the ball, and Gordon Hayward knocked down a 3 to tie it at 95-95 with only 10.5 seconds to go. Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan called a timeout, and just like everyone expected, Russell Westbrook came out ready to take the final shot. With 1.4 seconds remaining, Westbrook knocked down a midrange jumper to take a 97-95 lead over Utah, and the Jazz missed a last-second shot, giving the Thunder the victory.
Russ to the Rescue
Russell Westbrook started off the night looking as refreshed as an NBA superstar can look following a four-day break as he shot 7/13 for 22 points in the first half to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. In the following almost 19 minutes of basketball, Westbrook failed to make a shot, missing 13 shots in a row, 11 of those after halftime. At the 5:03 mark in the 4th quarter, Russ finally got a shot to drop to cut the Jazz lead to 82-84. He proceeded to score a total of 13 of the Thunder’s final 17 points while dishing out 2 assists on the other two baskets.
Russell Westbrook had a point in the third quarter where he thought he was fouled, and he proceeded to react in a way that he typically does. He played the next few possessions extremely physical and visibly frustrated, and while thankfully he did not pick up a technical or flagrant foul, it clearly threw him off his game. It appeared as if he was going to derail and that his poor play may end up costing the Thunder the game. However, he calmed down during his second-half rest, came out in the fourth quarter, and carried the team back for a victory. Russ did all of this while picking up his 22nd triple-double of the season as he finished with 38 points on 11/29 (37.9%) shooting from the field, including 3/7 (42.9%) from three, as well as 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 4 steals.
Welcome Back, Steven Adams!
A week ago in Sacramento, Steven Adams suffered a concussion in the middle of the third quarter after taking a tumble while trying to box out Kings Center DeMarcus Cousins. Adams was forced to miss two keys game for the Thunder, but he returned tonight in impressive fashion. Adams started off the game with 6 quick points, including an incredible dunk over Jazz Center Rudy Gobert.
Adams finished the game with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks. While his stat line is not something to get super excited about, his play down the stretch ultimately saved the game for the Thunder. Without a doubt, the return of Steven Adams is something Thunder fans waited a long 7 days for.
On to NOLA
Oklahoma City wraps up it’s two-week, 6-game road trip on Wednesday against the Pelicans in New Orleans. The Thunder defeated the Pelicans 101-92 at home on December 4th and 121-110 in New Orleans on December 21st. The Pelicans are 18-27 on the season and have won 6 of their last 8 at home. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CST and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.