by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Rick Bowmer of AP Photo.
The Utah Jazz (29-31) took on the surging Oklahoma City Thunder (28-29) for their first game back from the NBA All-Star break.
Western Heritage Meets the West
After the break, Utah wanted to pull off a planned trick play to start the game. No one could have guessed that Walker Kessler (7/18/2) was going to make a corner three to start the game. Even with Kessler getting the crowd started with his perimeter shooting, Utah shot 3/11 (27.3%) from the perimeter in the first quarter. Utah’s defensive pressure cause Oklahoma City to shoot 0/8 (0%) from the perimeter which put more focus on the paint. Unfortunately for Utah, Rudy Gay‘s time was cut short by a collision that led to a nasal fracture. Even with the chaos of injuries for Utah and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (39/8/7) scoring 12 points in the quarter, Utah held on to a slim lead of 28-26.
In the second quarter, Utah couldn’t buy a basket. They shot 6/21 (28.6%) from the field. The one play that could find the hoop was new Jazz man Kris Dunn (11/1/1) who got his first basket for Utah off an easy floater. With the quarter leaning in their favor, Oklahoma City found a way to continue to run with the lead through constant drive to the basket. They even were able to cap off the quarter with a 9-0 run to give them the lead going into the half 55-46 after outscoring Utah 29-18 for the quarter.
Any Bricks in this Town?
Utah turned their focus to the paint in the second half and it looked great in the third quarter. Shooting 8/10 (80%) within the perimeter, you would think Utah was controlling the boards as well. Unfortunately for Utah, they continue to give Oklahoma City second chance as they were able to rack up 17 offensive rebounds that led to 19 points. Doesn’t help that Utah’s 17 turnovers also led to 18 points to this point. Jordan Clarkson (26/4/6) was able to heat up when Utah needed it going 3/4 (75%) from the field scoring seven of Utah’s 32 points for the quarter. Even with a valiant effort in the third, Utah went into the final quarter trailing 86-78.
After shooting 6/14 (42.9%) in the first three quarters, Lauri Markkanen (43/10/2) flipped a switch in the fourth. Shooting 8/12 (66.7%) from the field, Markkanen showed the crowd why he was deserving of his All-Star selection. He scored one emphatic dunk after the next, whether it was having Kenrich Williams (16/4/3) sliding across the floor, Dario Saric (2/1/2) trying to defend the paint or Jalen Williams (9/6/2) trying to stop him on the base line. As time starting winding down for a photo finish, Kelly Olynyk (12/7/3) looked to have turned his ankle. He walked with a very noticeable limp with just over four minutes to go with the score tied at 95 points apiece. If it wasn’t for Kessler, Utah would have lost this game in the end. Kessler was able to get the offensive board and get the putback layup and the block on the other end to send the Jazz to overtime 106-106.
During overtime, Utah moved their shooting strictly to the perimeter and Oklahoma City moved their shooting strictly into the paint. This game came down to the ability to get to the free throw line and knock them down. Markkanen became the savior for Utah as he was fouled at the three-point line with a questionable attempt with 4.6 seconds left in overtime. After hitting all three free throws, Utah was up by one with the ball advanced by Oklahoma City after an immediate timeout. Gilgeous-Alexander went for the final shot trying to create contact. He was unable to get the foul call or the ball to go into the hoop, so the game ended in a 120-119 win for Utah.
The Utah Jazz will take on the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night as they look to extend San Antonio’s losing streak to 16-games.