Thunder 110, Jazz 87

The last time these teams met, Utah handed visiting Oklahoma

city a 15 point loss. Just over a month later, the Thunder returned

the favor on their home court.

Kevin Durant had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Russell Westbrook

scored 19 points and Oklahoma City cruised to a 110-87 victory over

the Jazz on Wednesday night.

The win came two nights after the Thunder lost at San Antonio to

remain in second place in the Western Conference behind the

Spurs.

”It was important after a loss to try and bounce back,” Durant

said. ”This team beat us pretty badly up in Utah so we wanted to

come out and send a message and we did that.”

Durant struggled early, recording more turnovers (6) than points

(5) through the first 22 minutes. The NBA’s leading scorer didn’t

convert until 3.8 seconds left in the first quarter and finished

the half with eight points.

Westbrook picked up the slack, leading all scorers with 13

points at the break and adding five assists. However, the Thunder

All-Star was able to keep the offense attacking while Durant

struggled.

Oklahoma City, which owns the third-best record in the league at

48-17, still led 29-19 at the end of the first quarter and 50-28 by

halftime.

While Durant struggled, Oklahoma City’s defense clamped

down.

”I thought that was the game right there, the way we came out

in the first and second quarter just playing good defense and

scoring off of that,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ”In

the second we obviously scored much better.”

Kevin Martin added 15 points for the Thunder.

Durant found his rhythm in the third quarter, scoring nine of

Oklahoma City’s first 11 points and 15 total to push the Thunder

lead to 32.

His only assist of the night came during halftime when he helped

an elderly fan to her feet after she had fallen courtside.

Durant also had eight turnovers, including six in the first

half.

”I was struggling early on really bad and I was down on

myself,” Durant said. ”My teammates came to my rescue but

(Westbrook) was the main guy. I really appreciate him doing that

for me.”

Gordon Hayward scored 20 points to lead Utah, and Enes Kanter

had 12. The Jazz lost for the eighth time in 10 games, but remained

one-half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the

West.

The Jazz shot 35 percent from the floor, committing 24 turnovers

and getting outrebounded 37-22.

Before the game, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said Utah’s

big men would pose the greatest challenge to his team. The Thunder

wound up scoring 38 points in the paint and held Utah’s frontcourt

of Demarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to just 15

points.

Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins were a big

reason for that. Ibaka scored 10 points and Perkins was scoreless,

but turned in a superb defensive effort..

”I thought our bigs did a great job,” Brooks said. ”I think

if you had to give a game ball you would certainly give one to

(Perkins). He was a big impact throughout the game not only on his

man but anchoring our defense and not allowing any easy points in

the paint during that first three quarters. He’s been doing it all

year. He takes pride in his individual defense and our team

defense.”

Millsap, who scored seven points to go with seven rebounds,

played for the first time since Friday in Chicago after missing two

games with inflammation in his right knee. The Jazz were also

without backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who missed his second

game due to illness.

The large lead allowed Brooks the opportunity to play all his

reserves.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin got the same opportunity for different

reasons.

”We have been looking at different lineups the last couple of

weeks and we will definitely look at that the next couple of

weeks,” Brooks said of his approach heading into the final 17

games of the regular season. ”Shortening the rotation – we do it

game to game. It’s hard to play a lot of guys in this NBA season.

You have some good players that don’t play.

NOTES: Oklahoma City has won nine of its last 12 games. … Utah

slipped to 10-24 on the road. … Five technical fouls and two

flagrant fouls were called on the night.