Thunder 101, Jazz 87

With the Jazz focusing their attention on Kevin Durant, Russell

Westbrook was more than happy to be the star of the show.

”I was working on my shot all summer and I had lots of

opportunities to shoot it tonight,” Westbrook said. ”I had

openings I needed to take advantage of.”

There were times Durant barely crossed halfcourt when Westbrook

was already flying toward the hoop or spotting up for a jumper on

his way to 28 points and helping the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the

Utah Jazz 101-87 on Friday night.

The Thunder improved to 5-1 in games after a loss.

”This is what good teams do. We lost a tough one last night but

we came in here and played a tough Utah team in their arena and

come out with a win. That’s a good sign,” said Durant, who had 19

points the night after losing to Sacramento 106-101.

With Oklahoma City’s win, the Thunder (21-6) have clinched the

best record in the conference through games played Feb. 15, meaning

coach Scott Brooks will lead the Western Conference All-Stars for

the game on Sunday, Feb. 26, in Orlando, Fla.

”That’s great for our team and our organization. I feel truly

blessed to be a part of what’s going on with the Thunder right

now,” Westbrook said.

The Jazz appeared determined to limit Durant’s offense – he had

only 10 field goal attempts – but Westbrook found extra room to

drive to the basket and created some fast breaks with five

steals.

”I was taking what the defense was giving me,” Westbrook

said.

Serge Ibaka had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Kendrick Perkins

added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz’s big men often helped on Westbrook and Durant,

allowing the Thunder to out-rebound Utah 46-32.

”Their bigs did a good job inside and between the two of them,

they had eight offensive rebounds and that hurt us,” Utah coach Ty

Corbin said.

Al Jefferson led Utah with 20 points and Raja Bell and Gordon

Hayward each had 13 points, but the Jazz dropped their fifth game

in their past six.

Once Utah’s reserves drew to 78-73 early in the fourth quarter,

the Thunder answered with a 7-0 run, capped by Nick Collison’s

driving layup.

The Thunder finished their road trip with a 3-2 record.

Oklahoma City trailed for much of the first half until Durant

scored on both ends of a 10-0 run that gave the Thunder a 46-40

lead with 2:15 until halftime.

”We didn’t have a lot of things going for us early but we

fought and stuck together,” Brooks said. ”The way we finished the

game was good basketball.”

Though they have played the most road games in the Western

Conference, the Thunder have compiled a 12-5 away record and looked

fresh in the fourth quarter, relentlessly crowding the Jazz on

defense.

The Jazz, meanwhile, have played 16 games at home (11-5) and the

offense is beginning to sputter no matter where they are

playing.

Utah hasn’t reached 100 points in its past four outings and

didn’t get close Friday – even though the Thunder had given up at

least 106 points on each of the other four games of the road

trip.

”They were aggressive and we got stuck in one mode and were

never able to transition into something else to see what would

happen,” Bell said.

The Jazz took their last lead at 58-56 on Jefferson’s jumper

with 7:28 left in the third. But Westbrook scored six in a 16-4 run

to boost the Thunder to a 72-62 lead.

In a three-minute span in the first half, Earl Watson found C.J.

Miles for three alley-oop dunks with Durant trailing the plays. But

the Thunder found their defensive stride in the second half.

”We gave up some easy baskets early but we locked down after

that and didn’t let them have what they wanted,” Durant said.

The game marked one year since the abrupt resignation of

longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and the hiring of Ty Corbin. Corbin

is 21-32 as a head coach.

NOTES: The Jazz signed free agent forward DeMarre Carroll on

Thursday after Denver waived him, but he did not dress. … Thabo

Sefolosha missed his eighth game with a sore right foot. …

Westbrook has averaged more than 30 points against the Jazz in the

past three games. … Paul Millsap was averaging 25.5 points on

64.1 percent shooting in his past four games against the Thunder

before going 4 of 15 for just 10 points in this one.