The Oklahoma City Thunder (35-25) are breathing a sigh of relief after almost giving away a win to the Utah Jazz (37-23) in an otherwise great shooting performance from the Thunder. Oklahoma City inched out a 109-106 win in a thrilling finish where Utah outscored them by eight in the fourth quarter. It was another amazing crunch time performance as well from Westbrook, who had two huge three-point plays with less than a minute remaining.
Two things came through huge for the Thunder outside of Westbrook’s heroics. It was two things that Thunder have needed all season long: Bench contribution on the offensive end, and outside shooting. Both of those things were apparent in a big time win for Oklahoma City, in a game that had pretty decent sized playoff implications.
The Thunder began the night unconscious from beyond the three-point line, hitting their first 12, yes twelve, three-pointers in a row. It was a Oklahoma City record, 12 made threes in a half. It was a combination both of wide open attempts, and just great shot making. It really showed that it was just Thunder’s night after Westbrook hit a wild prayer three that turned into a four-point play.
Russell led the way from three, hitting six of the 15 makes by Thunder, but seven of them combined coming from Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott.
Oklahoma City finished the night shooting an unbelievable 68 percent from beyond the arc, this coming from a team that is dead last in three-point percentage as a team.
The bench for the Thunder was phenomenal, especially offensively. In a night where Roberson and Adams played their tail off defensively, they only chipped in a combined five points. That is where Oklahoma City’s bench came in huge. They combined for 48 bench points on 60 percent shooting from the floor. In particular, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott were the ones with the biggest contribution, combining for 31 of those 48 points. It was nice sight to see McDermott get it going, especially from three-point land, as he had struggled a bit in his first two games as a Thunder player.
Even with the huge offensive performances, Utah hung around pretty much all night, keeping the deficit manageable, never down by more than 13 all game.
It started to pay dividends for the Jazz, as they started to make their run in the fourth quarter. As the offense became stagnant for Thunder and some sloppy turnovers, Utah made their move. After the Jazz went down 94-85 halfway through the fourth, Utah went on a 17 to four run to take a four-point lead with a little less than two minutes remaining.
However, as the Thunder have been all year, they were once again incredible in the clutch, especially Westbrook. After going down four, Westbrook responded with a big three, getting the deficit down to one. After a Utah miss, Westbrook went coast to coast, finishing off a three-point play putting the Thunder on the highside by two to essentially seal the win.
Westbrook is indescribable, as he can just turn the switch and hit the big time shots no matter the momentum of the game. He also recorded his 30th triple double of the season, his fourth in a row. As I “casually” type that because Westbrook has somehow made that seem normal, it is not out of question for him to catch Oscar Robertson in most triple doubles in a season. What he is doing is simply unbelievable. It was also Russell’s sixth triple double this season that he recorded 40 points or more.
The Thunder are now 2-1 this season versus Utah. As mentioned, the Thunder winning this season series versus the Jazz could have big implications on where each team is seeded come playoff time. After this win, Oklahoma City is tied for the sixth seed, and only two games back from the Jazz who are currently the fourth seed.
Oklahoma City finished the month of February 7-4, and up next will travel to Portland to take on the Blazers on Thursday night.
Keys to the game
Defend the three: B
The Utah Jazz shot 40 percent from three, hitting nine of their 22 attempts. Oklahoma City, though, made Utah miss when it counted, especially late in the game. Thunder also defended the three-point line very well on the last possession, when Utah was trying to send the game to overtime.
Oklahoma City definitely won the rebounding battle, out-rebounding Utah by nine, but Rudy Gobert definitely made the Oklahoma City bigs disappear at times. Other than that, the Thunder came down with the loose ball battles when they needed to, which was huge in their three-point win.
Hey Bench, show up: A+
I thought about adding a lot more “+” symbols because the bench was excellent for Oklahoma City tonight. Putting up 48 points, Thunder’s bench unit was an integral part of this big win. With the trade Oklahoma City made on trade deadline day, it is already starting to payoff as having experienced guys helps a ton. This bench unit will be huge in how deep and competitive Oklahoma City will be in postseason play.