Coming off perhaps the most impressive victory of the season for the Thunder against the Spurs on Thursday, Oklahoma City hosted the Utah Jazz in a rare Saturday matinee matchup. The Thunder hit the first shot of the game and led for nearly the entire first quarter as Victor Oladipo scored at the buzzer to give Oklahoma City a 29-23 edge. The Thunder continued its success in the second quarter as they pushed their lead to a game-high 14 points as Alex Abrines lobbed an inbounds pass to Russell Westbrook who tipped it in at the buzzer.
Oklahoma City came out in the third quarter with no intentions of a letdown as they continued to pour on the points, extending their lead to as many as 23 at one point, but the Jazz finished the quarter on an 8-2 run. The Thunder led 91-76 with only one quarter to go. Despite trailing for basically the entire game, Utah would not give up, and they had significant success to cut the Thunder lead to 6 points with 1:18 left in the game, but Oklahoma City managed to hold on for the 112-104 victory.
Westbrook Tallies 32nd Triple-Double
Russell Westbrook continues to impress as he managed to put together his 32nd triple-double of the season, pushing him ahead of Wilt Chamberlain for sole ownership of 2nd place for the most triple-doubles in a single season. Westbrook trails only Oscar Robertson, who had 41, but Russ has 16 games left to make a run at the all-time record. The Thunder’s record improves to 26-6 when Westbrook gets a triple-double compared to 11-23 when he does not.
Westbrook finished today’s game with 33 points while shooting 9/26 (34.6%) from the floor, including 3/10 (30.0%) from three, to go along with 14 assists, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Like normal, Westbrook impacted the game in a number of ways, but perhaps his biggest contribution was his ability to get teammates involved early. He had 6 assists in the first quarter alone, and that allowed other members of the Thunder to get going offensively. Despite the strong start, Russell struggled to knock down shots in the 4th quarter, making only 3 of his 10 attempts. Westbrook needs to continue to keep teammates involved from start to finish, but he did put an exclamation point on the win with a monster tomahawk slam dunk.
Dipo Dominant Since Return From Injury
Victor Oladipo was greatly missed in the 7 games that he was out due to back spasms, but he has been extraordinary since his return to the court. Since his comeback, Oladipo is averaging 19.3 points while shooting 55.3% from the floor, including an incredible 10/15 (66.7%) from three. He has also found success at getting into the paint, which has opened up the spacing on the floor.
While he is still working to get conditioned back into game shape, he is playing with a high level of intensity on both ends of the court. The Thunder were desperate for defensive stops while Oladipo was out, but since he is back on the court, Oklahoma City has been much more capable defensively.
Thunder Bigs Show Consistency
In the first three meetings of the season against Utah, the Jazz outscored the Thunder in the paint by an average of almost 13 points, but that was not the case today. Oklahoma City managed to score down low for most of the game as they put up 58 points in the paint to Utah’s 44. A big reason for the Thunder’s ability to beat up the Jazz down low was the fact that Utah was missing Rudy Golbert and Derrick Favors, while Oklahoma City’s big men played solid from start to finish.
Enes Kanter led the way for the big men as he put up 16 points, a high for the Thunder bench, while pulling down 6 rebounds and blocking 2 shots as well in only 18 minutes of play. Kanter has continued to work on getting back to where he was prior to his injury, and he was extremely efficient today as he shot 8/12 (66.7%), which included some impressive dunks.
Steven Adams had a strong performance for the second game in a row as he poured in 11 points on 5/8 (62.5%) shooting from the floor while grabbing 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. Adams had a rough stretch of play as the Thunder returned from the All-Star Break, but he seems to be have gotten back on track.
Perhaps one of the most impressive performances of the evening for Oklahoma City was Thunder newcomer Taj Gibson. Gibson poured in 15 points, a high for him since joining the Thunder, while shooting 7/9 (77.8%) from the floor to go along with 6 rebounds. Gibson appeared to injure his hip late in the game, but he was cleared to return to the floor if needed. The Thunder coaching staff decided to rest him for the remainder of the game just to be safe, but it is pretty clear that Gibson is fitting in well with his new role as a starter.
Thunder Head North for Brief Road Trip
Oklahoma City gets a couple of days off before they play the Nets in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. The Thunder defeated the Nets back in November 124-105 at home. Since then, Brooklyn has struggled as they have the league’s worst record at 11-53 (7-24 at home). Tip-off is set for 6:30 PM, and the game 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.