The Oklahoma City Thunder (41-24) kicked off their bubble restart play on Saturday afternoon with an impressive 110-94 win over the Utah Jazz (42-24). This win was a long time coming after the season was indefinitely postponed back in March, and it honestly could not have gone much better for OKC.
It All Starts with Defense
The saying goes “defense wins championships,” and while the Thunder is still a long way away from playing in the Finals, they got off to a solid start in today’s game with plenty of thanks to the defense.
The Jazz have plenty of dynamic scorers, but the Thunder were up to the task as they held Utah to 15 points in the opening quarter, the fewest 1st quarter total allowed by OKC all season long.
The suffocating effort by the Thunder held Utah to just 39.1% from the field and 25.8% from three-point. The Jazz are missing Bojan Bogdanović badly, but OKC’s defense has been one of their underrated strengths for most of the season. If they continue to defend teams at such a high level, they will most definitely be a force to be reckoned with come playoffs.
Keep Cleaning It Up
As dominant as the Thunder was from start to finish, there are still plenty of areas that need to see improvement before the playoffs get going. OKC looked sloppy in the first few minutes, turning it over 4 times in the first 4 minutes. The Thunder ended with 21 turnovers, the third-highest total for OKC for the season.
Still, OKC was up by as many as 29 points in the third quarter, which allowed the starters to get some rest in the fourth. As a result, everybody played, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that some guys are moving more into the rotation (Hamidou Diallo and Darius Bazley), while others are falling out (Terrance Ferguson, Abdel Nader, and Mike Muscala).
As long as the Thunder maintains their chemistry moving forward, they will manage to clean up the little things, and at this point, who knows just how far this team can go.
Thunder Player of the Game
After a rusty couple of games in the two scrimmages that he played in, Chris Paul earned Thunder Player of the Game honors after an efficient outing. Paul got the Thunder going early, and he finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the field, 1-of-1 (100.0%) from three, and 3-of-3 (100.0%) from the free throw line. He also recorded 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals in 27 minutes.
The Nuggets are Next
The Thunder’s next game is a Monday afternoon matchup with Northwestern Division rival Denver Nuggets (43-23). OKC lost to the Nuggets in Denver back in December, but the Thunder prevailed in a rematch in Oklahoma City in February.
The Nuggets are at less than full strength right now, while the Thunder is full steam ahead, so there could be some position shifting in the Western Conference after this one. Denver struggled in their first game early Saturday when they dropped a 125-105 decision to the Miami Heat (42-24), but OKC must not overlook any opponent at this point.
Tip-off is set for 3 PM CT, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma and NBA TV. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.