by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Sue Ogrocki of AP Photo.
The Utah Jazz (31-33) takes on the Oklahoma City Thunder (29-34) as they look to avoid the sweep in the back-to-back matchup.
Midwest Storm Warning
Right off the bat, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (38/7/4) made it clear that he is back. Shooting 5/7 (71.4%) from the field and accounting for 13 points in the quarter, Oklahoma City was happy to have him back on the court. Utah made the same number of shots as Gilgeous-Alexander in the first quarter with much less efficiency. Utah shot 5/21 (23.8%) for the quarter but their ability to get to the free-throw line kept Utah within reach of Oklahoma City. With Utah shooting 8/9 (88.9%) from the free throw line, Utah looked lost without Lauri Markkanen as they trailed 35-20 at the end of the quarter.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “rookie rocks the rim #TakeNote | @WalkerKessler13 https://t.co/tCRYURW2Bn” / Twitter
Utah was able to get out of their shooting funk after a questionable first quarter. Unfortunately for Utah, Oklahoma City came into this game ready to play. Both teams shot at or over 50 percent for the quarter, but Oklahoma City is able to shoot 12/16 (75%) from the free throw line allowing them to keep their lead. With a fairly even scoring quarter between both teams, Utah couldn’t find a break. Even finishing the half with no one for Utah having scored more than 10 points, with Kelly Olynyk (15/10/5) leading the team with nine points, Utah trailed 70-51 at the half.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “This pass from 00 👀 #TakeNote | @jordanclarksons https://t.co/ThkagPjyxI” / Twitter
Life Without Markkanen
Coming back from the half, Utah looked as if they had the plan to exploit Oklahoma City. At one point Utah was able to go on a 16-4 run to bring their deficit down to 10 led by Jordan Clarkson (18/4/12) and Walker Kessler (17 points and 10 rebounds). Kessler was able to put fear into Oklahoma City’s hearts as he was able to show off his defensive prowess recording his fifth block of the night in the quarter. With Collin Sexton still out with a hamstring injury, Utah has become reliant on the depth of their bench. Kris Dunn (17/2/3), who is on his second 10-day contract with Utah, made a case proving he’s deserving of a full contract after shooting 3/3 (100%) for the quarter. With Utah allowing 70 points in the first half, trying to start the comeback looked promising but still finished the quarter trailing 101-84.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “🏴☠️ 𝔀𝓻𝓪𝓹𝓪𝓻𝓸𝓾𝓷𝓭 🏴☠️ https://t.co/Hem0Finup9” / Twitter
Even after shooting 5/8 (62.5%) in the first three quarters, Jalen Williams (32/5/5) was able to propel himself to a career night shooting 7/7 (100%) in the fourth. Another rookie who had a career night was Johnny Juzang (11 points and 2 rebounds) who seems to be getting comfortable in the minutes he’s been receiving the last few games. Also, being able to see valuable minutes for Damian Jones (4/3/1), who has only played in four games since he has been traded to Utah, showing his defensive dominance with two blocks with Kessler off the court. Even with defensive help from the bench, Josh Giddey (24/9/9) was still finding passing lanes to shift the momentum back in Oklahoma City’s favor. Utah had a surge to fight back in this game but never got within 10 points since the first quarter and finished the night with a loss, 130-119.
Utah Jazz on Twitter: “THT bucket 🪣 DJ swat 🚫 Johnny triple 🌧️ https://t.co/mhOljQ43GX” / Twitter
Utah will travel to take on the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday in hopes of ending their three-game losing streak.