Thunder snap Jazz's five-game win streak
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks knew he was facing one of the hottest teams in the league.
The answer was to give the Utah Jazz a bit of their own medicine.
After falling behind by double digits early, Oklahoma City got rolling, then held off a late Jazz comeback for a 115-108 victory on Monday night.
The victory snapped Utah's five-game winning streak and gave Oklahoma City hope it can still be the 50-win team it was a season ago.
''Man, we needed this win,'' said forward Kevin Durant, who led Oklahoma City with 30 points, including 16 of 16 from the free throw line.
''They've been playing very, very well and after a tough loss last night we needed this. It felt good.''
The Thunder avenged a 21-point home loss to Utah on Oct. 31, and snapped a two-game losing streak to the Jazz.
It was a different Oklahoma City team than the one that was coming off an embarrassing 117-104 loss Sunday night in San Antonio.
''Tonight we left it on the floor, and we can go home and tell ourselves we improved today,'' Brooks said.
''The offensive rebounds hurt us more than I think they should have, but you have to give them credit,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ''They were desperate for a win and wanted to get one.''
The Jazz, who had double-digit comebacks on the road against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte, were determined not to fall behind early this time. And they didn't, with Deron Williams hitting three straight 3-pointers and his first six shots as the Jazz led by as many as 12 in the first.
They were ahead 13-4 and 30-19, before Oklahoma City found its rhythm.
The Thunder fought back to take a 50-48 lead with 4:25 left in the second quarter, then led by as many as 13 before the Jazz started what looked like another comeback.
Utah pulled within 109-106 on Williams' driving layup with 57 seconds left, and had a chance to get within one after Durant's miss. But Andrei Kirilenko missed a layup and Durant was fouled after grabbing the rebound. He made six straight free throws to seal the victory.
Overall, the Thunder made 33 of 34 free throws, compared to 18 of 22 by the Jazz.
''It happens,'' Williams said when asked to explain the big differential at the line.
As hard as Oklahoma City battled defensively, Williams blamed the loss on Utah's inability to play consistent defense.
''We had opportunities to put them away,'' said Williams, who finished with 31 points and 11 assists. ''You look at the second and third quarters, where they score 31 and 35 points. That is way too many points to give up in a quarter. It all points to defense. We did a better job of executing tonight, but we didn't get enough stops.''
Williams said the Jazz missed Raja Bell, who was out with a groin injury.
''He's one of our better defenders,'' Williams said.
Gordon Hayward, a rookie making his first NBA start in place Bell, battled early foul trouble and finished with just four points. C.J. Miles added 16 off the bench as Utah had five players score in double figures.
But it wasn't enough.
''We saw their potential last year and they have pretty much the same team back,'' Williams said. ''They had some struggles early but they're a dangerous team.''
NOTES: Williams on Monday was named the NBA's Western Conference player of the week for averaging 23 points, 11.8 assists and four rebounds in comeback wins at Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte. ... Utah's next opponent, the New Jersey Nets, had dropped 23 straight road games against Western Conference opponents before beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. ... The Thunder reached a new season-high in free-throw percentage, shooting 97.1 percent. ... The Jazz were wearing their road uniforms as teams are allowed to do so twice during the season.