By Chad Waters, Thunder, OSU Basketball Writer.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1) and Utah Jazz (2-1) returned to The Peake for the Thunder’s home opener on Monday night. The two teams, forever tied in pandemic history, ended a 292-day drought of basketball in Oklahoma City since the infamous March 11 night last season, which led to the NBA suspending its season and eventually the cancellation of all sports across the country.
While it all started in OKC, Thunder fans watched their team play on its homecourt, albeit in a losing effort, falling to the Jazz, 110-109. The Thunder controlled most of the game, answering Utah’s runs throughout the first three quarters as the Thunder held a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter. However, Utah closed the game on a 24-14 run, led by Donovan Mitchell, who scored the Jazz’s final 12 points with his last shot coming as the game-winning layup with seven seconds left. OKC’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who hit a game-winning shot in the Thunder’s season-opening win in Charlotte, had another chance to be the hero for Thunder once again. But, Gilgeous-Alexander’s driving layup fell short in what ended up being a good look that was slightly altered by Utah’s two-time DPOY, Rudy Gobert. The win for the Jazz ended a 17-game losing streak in regular-season road games against the Thunder, including games in the NBA’s Orlando bubble last season. Utah’s last win in Oklahoma City came on Oct. 31, 2010.
OKC’s Luguentz Dort led all scorers with 26 points on 9-11 shooting and 5-7 from 3-point range. The undrafted rookie continues to impress on the defensive end while showing tremendous improvement offensively this season.
OKC’s Darius Bazley narrowly finished with back-to-back double-doubles to open the season, finishing with nine points and 11 rebounds to go along with one block against the Jazz. In the season opener, Bazley finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks as the second-year forward continues to look more comfortable this season putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim. Bazley also shot 2-of-4 from 3-point range against the Jazz on Monday night.
For the second-straight game, first-round draft pick Aleksej Pokusevski did not score (in 14 minutes) for Oklahoma City. After shooting 0-6 against the Hornets on opening night, Pokusevski went 0-2 against the Jazz, missing all seven of his three-point attempts on the season thus far. However, Pokusevski has filled out part of the stat sheet, averaging two rebounds, one block, and one steal in two games this season.
After scoring four points in his debut, OKC’s other rookie, Theo Maledon, made both of his field-goal attempts, finishing with six points, two assists, one steal, and three turnovers against the Jazz.
As expected, the two Thunder rookies have gotten off to a rocky start early on this season. Regardless, the two 19-year-olds should only improve as they continue to be given key minutes off the bench throughout the season.
After shooting 27.8 percent in the season opener against the Hornets, OKC made nearly 40 percent (15-38) from 3-point range against the Jazz. OKC made its first five shot attempts on the evening, with four of those shots coming from beyond the three-point arc. Dort led the Thunder with five three-point makes, followed by Al Horford and Mike Muscala, who each finished with three makes beyond the arc.
- OKC went with the same starters as it did in its season-opener—Dort, Bazley, Horford, Gilgeous-Alexander, and George Hill.
- Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 23 points, seven assists, and three rebounds. Hill (14 points) and Horford (11 points) each finished with five rebounds and four assists.
- Muscala led Thunder’s second unit with nine points off the bench. Hamidou Diallo added seven points, six rebounds, one steal, and one block off the bench.
- Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley added 20 points each while Jordan Clarkson provided 16 points off Jazz bench.
- The Thunder continue a home stretch of three games in four nights, hosting the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.