The Oklahoma City Thunder led from start to finish as they handled the Utah Jazz 122-113 Monday night in a game that could be considered vengeance fulfilled after the Jazz knocked the Thunder out of the first round of the playoffs back in April.
The Thunder jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first minute of the game before things slowed down for both teams. Midway through the period the score was just 10-8 in favor of OKC before the Thunder broke things open 20-10 over the next couple of minute. The scoring picked up for both teams to finish the first, though, and Paul George and Steven Adams had 9 points apiece as OKC led 30-22 over Utah after one quarter.
The Thunder continued to pour it on as they went up 41-25 just a few minutes later. The Jazz would strike back to cut the deficit to single digits at 46-38 with 4:04 left in the first half, but OKC would finish strong to take a 57-46 lead into halftime.
The third quarter has been the Thunder’s strong period all season long, and tonight was no different. OKC blew the game wide open as Paul George took over and the Thunder outscored the Jazz 42-29 to take a 99-75 lead into the final frame.
The Thunder kept the pedal to the metal as they extended their lead to 29 a couple of minutes in, but the Jazz made things interesting after OKC subbed the starters out. Utah’s bench made a run, and they cut the deficit to 13 with a few minutes to go, but the Thunder was able to hold on just fine and finish on top 122-113.
Thunder Player of the Game
Paul George put on a show tonight as he racked up 31 points on 8-10 (80%) from the field, including 5-6 (83.3%) from three, and 10-12 (83.3%) from the charity stripe while grabbing 3 rebounds, dishing 3 assists, and nabbing 4 steals. George has himself in the MVP conversation, and rightfully so. If he can play a little more consistent on a game-to-game basis, he’ll be right in the thick of things, but whether or not he wins the individual award, he is most certainly valued by his teammates.
A Couple of Quick Thoughts
- Role Players Make A Difference | The Thunder has had a lack of role players in recent years. The starting lineup has always been solid, but there was simply barely anything there on the bench. This season has been much different. Oklahoma City has several guys who are capable of having a big game on any given night. Tonight, it was Dennis Schröder who had the big game. Schröder shot 50% on the night for 21 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Having a guy who is capable of that kind of box score on your bench is priceless. The Thunder will win a lot of games this season if the guys on the bench can continue to have big nights.
- Paul George Deserves To Be In The Early MVP Talks | Earlier this week Paul George entered the MVP discussion. While it means absolutely nothing at this point of the season, he certainly deserves to be talked about. Oklahoma City has been bailed out by the performance of PG13 many times this season. You can say what you want about the guy, but he has been reliable when his name is called. George battled a nerve issue early in the season, which made shooting a bit difficult. However, it seems as if that injury has healed because he has been lighting up the scoreboard lately. In the middle of his scoring performances, let’s not forget about the defense that he brings to this team. It’s safe to say that Paul George has been a different maker for OKC this season.
Back on the Road
After playing three games on the road to return for just the one home game tonight, the Thunder heads to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Wednesday.
This is the second matchup between the two teams this season. Oklahoma City barely squeaked out a win the first game. Although the Pelicans have struggled this season, they still have a very talented roster. New Orleans is 14-15 and sitting at 11th in the West, but they are still capable of breaking out.
Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN and FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.