By Connor MacKenzie @grandepadre94
It was the Thunder’s first game back from the All Star break, and man was it one to remember. The Utah Jazz around this time of year have a great track record of playing great basketball. The young studs in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert contributed 38 and 26 points each respectively. Mitchell was exceptional in his efforts to close out the Thunder in the 4th and both overtimes. However, the Thunder have Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and were able to secure a 148-147 victory over a divisional rival.
George was magnificent with 45 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists; while Westbrook dropped 43 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists (stopping his triple double record). Both probably recalled that this Jazz team was responsible for ending their hopes of advancing in the playoffs, and certainly asserted themselves to take a victory by any means possible in this climbing rivalry.
Oklahoma City jumped to a 66-57 lead at half and all seemed to go well coming off the break. The 3rd quarter, which has been a strength of the Thunder, was lopsided in the Jazz’s favor as they outscored OKC 38-27. With the Jazz leading 95-93 headed to the 4th, OKC fans were in for another war with Utah. later down 107-97, coach Billy Donovan elected not to use a timeout and let his players dictate the next few minutes of the contest. This was a tremendous move as the Thunder climbed back into the came quickly as 3 baskets and 3 stops later forced Utah to call timeout with 7:22 left in the game. It would be a back and forth contest the rest of the way. Everyone on both teams contributing big buckets from Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder of Utah, to Jerami Grant, Steven Adams and Abdel Nader of OKC. Moments after Ricky Rubio pushed Utah to a 129-126 advantage, Jerami Grant converts a tough layup plus the made free throw to tie the game with 22 seconds left. Grant then blocked Mitchell’s floater in the lane and we were off to OT. After exhanging baskets and free throws, the Thunder found themselves down 137-136 and Westbrook gets called for charging and fouls out with 1:09 left. Abdel Nader takes his spot and calmly knocks down the biggest shot of his career to take a 139-137 lead with 51 seconds left. After a Gobert tip-in and missed shots from both teams, we head to Double Overtime. This is where Paul George stamped another seal of approval for his MVP candidacy.
Leading 147-146, Utah again with the chance to put the Thunder away and they cannot cash in. Missed layups and poor clock management took a lot of momentum out of them. After a Joe Ingles missed 3, Paul George snags the rebound and moves the ball up the floor. He slices through two defenders and puts up a floater that practically fell from the sky and drops it in the net with .8 seconds remaining. George called game and the Thunder prevailed in a herculean performance from their superstars and supporting cast.
Jerami Grant contributed 18 points on 6-10 shooting (3-4 from deep). His development on the offensive side of the floor cannot be undervalued. He has embraced his role and provides timely energy, stops and blocks on defense giving the Thunder countless opportunities to succeed.
OKC turned over the Jazz 25 times and limited themselves to 11. However, were rebounded 60-43.