Durant scores 32, Waiters provides lift in Thunder home debut
Kevin Durant told Dion Waiters to be ready.
In his first home game with the Thunder since being acquired from Cleveland earlier this week, Waiters hit a 3-pointer on an assist from Durant with 23 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up by four. He finished with 15 points to help the Thunder beat the Utah Jazz 99-94 on Friday night.
Waiters missed a 3-pointer a minute earlier, but Durant trusted his newest teammate.
"The first time he (Durant) found me, I was too excited," Waiters said. "I was too open. I wanted to hit it real bad, and I kind of rushed it and was all off balance. When we came out of the timeout, he just said, `Be ready, it’s going to come around again.’"
Waiters said the confidence from his teammates and coaches was a breath of fresh air compared to what he dealt with in Cleveland.
"It’s a lot different," he said. "I’m able to play. I don’t got to look over my shoulder, anything like that, if I make a mistake. Coaches tell me to play, be aggressive. Be me. Once you get told that, the game’s easy."
Durant scored 32 points and Russell Westbrook had 25 points and 12 assists for the Thunder, who lost their previous two games by a combined 47 points.
Gordon Hayward scored 27 points, Derrick Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Trey Burke added 20 points for the Jazz, who had won six of 10 and were coming off a 20-point win at Chicago on Wednesday night.
"I think we performed well," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "It just was, we missed some shots at the end. There was nothing about what we did that we fell apart. We didn’t turn the ball over late. I think it was more them raising their level."
Waiters was 1 for 9 in his Thunder debut Wednesday at Sacramento. He entered this game with 5:37 left in the first quarter, and immediately made an impression. He made 4 of 5 shots in the period, had a nifty assist to Westbrook for a dunk and had two steals in six minutes.
With 1:02 left in the first half, Utah lost the ball out of bounds with 0.2 seconds left on the shot clock and Trevor Booker checked in. Hayward bounced the ball to Booker, and he tipped it over his head, two-handed, into the basket from just outside the paint. Booker jogged down court with arms out and palms toward the ceiling, perhaps as surprised as the crowd.
"Well, I didn’t know the play," he said. "At first, I just went to the rim for the lob. It wasn’t there, so I just tried to give G (Gordon Hayward) an outlet. I knew I couldn’t catch the ball. He bounced it. I know you won’t believe me, but I really do practice those shots. I guess you could say the hard work finally paid off."
Booker’s circus shot helped Utah take a 50-44 lead at halftime.
An alley-oop dunk by Booker on a lob from Burke from the 3-point line put the Jazz up 81-76 in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder rallied. A baseline fadeaway by Durant tied the score at 90 with 3:18 to play, and he made another fadeaway from nearly the same spot the next time down to give the Thunder the lead.
Jazz: C Enes Kanter missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. He has started all 33 games he has played in and averages 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. … Hayward scored 10 points in the first quarter. … G Joe Ingles turned his right ankle in the second quarter after going up for a rebound. He left the game, but returned to start the third quarter.
Thunder: Oklahoma City made 11 of 18 shots in the first quarter, but just 31 for 73 the rest of the way. … The Thunder went scoreless for the first 3:48 of the second quarter. … Oklahoma City improved to 10-4 when Durant plays.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT:
Durant, on Booker’s trick shot: "It won’t ever happen again."
Westbrook and Durant broke out of slumps. Durant, who had made just 11 of 36 shots his previous two games, shot 14 for 21. Westbrook, who had made 27 of 99 his previous five games, was 9 for 17.
Jazz: At Houston on Saturday.
Thunder: At Houston on Thursday.