Game Recap: OKC vs. UTA – 11/24

The Big Picture

Neither team led by more than eight points in the Thunder’s tightly contested game against the Jazz that featured 28 ties and 11 lead changes. After opening the regular season against Utah back on October 20, OKC demonstrated its steady growth and improvement by taking the No. 3 team in the Western Conference down to the final minutes before falling 110-104.

Moments from the 48

A Back-and-Forth Battle
The Jazz opened the ball game bursting ahead to a 12-5 lead in the first five minutes. That early eight-point cushion would be its largest of the night as the Thunder responded with an 11-0 run that not only eliminated the margin but eclipsed it.

From that point on, Utah and OKC traded runs and baskets that resulted in 28 lead changes for the night marking the third most in a game in OKC history and tied the third most in the league this season. It wasn’t until the final 60 seconds of the ball game that Utah created enough separation to put the game away. Jazz leading scorer Donovan Mitchell, who had been held to just seven points up to that point, scored three consecutive buckets in the final minute with OKC unable to respond.

“It’s a tough one. These are the games that you want to win – close ones against one of the best teams in league like Utah. We were right there with them all game,” said Thunder rookie Josh Giddey. “Those late-game situations, we’re gonna learn over time how to close them out better, but it was good. Guys competed hard tonight. We played the right way. I think we gave ourselves every chance to win that game.”

Feasting on 3s
Part of what kept the Thunder in the game throughout the night was the squad’s performance from behind the arc. Playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right ankle sprain) for the second consecutive night, the Thunder looked to continue its collectively sourced offense. Paint touches and rapid ball movement led to open looks on the perimeter where the Thunder cashed in at a 41.7 percent clip.

Rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort all logged three or more triples for the night and contributed to OKC’s 15 made 3-pointers.

“I just feel like we did a good job moving the ball,” said Dort. “Our plan was to move them around and then use the shot clock and I felt like did a good job of that.”

Dort’s Big Night
Thunder guard Lu Dort led all scorers with 27 points as he dropped a season high five made 3-pointers. The third-year undrafted wing went toe-to-toe against Donovan Mitchell on the defensive end, holding him to just 13 points on 1-of-7 from the 3-point line. Then, on the other end of the floor, Dort continued to operate with a high motor and demonstrate his confidence offensively with strong attacks to the basket and a 5-of-12 performance from deep.

“I feel like I’m used to it now just going hard on both ends of the floor,” said Dort. “It’s hard, it’s not easy. Sometimes I just get tired but I’ve just got to push through. I put myself in that position and I know I can push through when I’m tired.”

“He had another big night tonight, but we can’t be surprised by that anymore. He’s a good player,” said Daigneault. “He’s got things to learn, but he plays two ends, he competes, he’s got great spirit and his offense is coming clearly.”

Baze Block Party
Darius Bazley, who leads the team in total blocks, swatted away another three against the Jazz on Wednesday. The most eye-catching denial occurred in the third quarter as the third-year forward met Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who leads the league in total dunks, at the rim and completely denied his slam attempt. Bazley finished the night with three blocks – the third time this season he’s logged three or more in a game.

“Gobert slipped out of there real quick and Baze always has my back,” said Robinson-Earl who had the matchup with Gobert throughout the night. “I know he can go up against any type of player and make those type of plays. He’s a great defensive player and he’s going to continue to do that.”

The Last Word

Mark Daigneault on competing against Utah…
“These last couple games, we’re making teams beat us. It’s a long season, these teams are good, they’re experienced, they’re strong, they’re tough. This is a battle tested team, but they had to beat us tonight and that’s the type of team we want to have. If we just repeat that over and over again, we’ll improve and eventually we’re going to break through and be on the other side of some of these games.

Josh Giddey on the team’s improvement since first playing Utah…
“Although we lost you can see the strides we’ve made. The first time we played them it was completely lopsided, they dominated the whole game for 48 minutes and tonight, I think we’re in it for 48. It’s positive signs for us to see the strides we’ve made and I think you can see it on defensive end and you can see it on the offensive end.”

What’s Next

Before the Thunder returns to action on Friday, the team will enjoy Thanksgiving off on Thursday. When the team does take to the hardwood again, they’ll face the Washington Wizards for the first time this season.

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