Utah Jazz subs make fun run, but it's too little, too late vs. OKC

Utah Jazz subs make fun run, but it's too little, too late vs. OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY — It wasn’t too surprising that the Utah Jazz’s game against Oklahoma City got ugly pretty early.

After all, it was on the road, Utah has struggled against this team and, worst of all, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors both sat this one out with injuries.

What was surprising, however, was that the game got pretty interesting when Jazz coach Quin Snyder sat his starters and let his players at the end of the bench get some run.

Thanks to a gutsy effort from guys like Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Trey Lyles, Raul Neto and — get this — Joel Bolomboy, the Jazz turned a 23-point deficit into a competitive game.

Sure, it ended up just as you would expect — in a Thunder victory that snapped Utah’s four-game winning streak — but the final score of 112-104 was indicative of a strong fourth-quarter push by the Jazz subs.

“Guys that don’t play all the time, they’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes to stay ready. This is one of those situations where they were,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s not easy to just stay in condition, too, but guys came in, they competed. That’s really all you want is for them to come in and compete. When you do that, you can make some good things happen.”

Unfortunately for the Jazz, their third-straight loss to OKC dropped them to 41-25, giving them a one-game lead for the fourth spot in the Western Conference over the Los Angeles Clippers, a winner over Philadelphia on Saturday. The Jazz and the Clippers play each other at Vivint Arena on Monday night.

Ultimately, the Jazz simply didn’t have an answer (again) for MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, who had 33 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for the 37-29 Thunder.

OKC also dominated the paint without Gobert and Favors, outscoring the Jazz 58-44 inside with 18 second-chance points. The Thunder also won the rebounding battle 43-36.

“I’m not surprised that they dominated the paint,” Snyder said. “They’re one of the most physical teams to begin with, and if you take Rudy and Fav away from us, it’s going to be hard. I thought we battled. That’s all you can ask.”

It was Westbrook’s 32nd triple-double of the season, which is the second-most in NBA history behind the 41 Oscar Robertson compiled in 1961-62.

“Yeah, it’s amazing what he has done,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after Westbrook passed Wilt Chamberlain (31, 1967-68) for the most triple-doubles in one season. “Certainly it is a huge focus and a lot of attention has been given to it and rightfully so. It’s like they are historic numbers you are talking about, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson, two of the greatest players to play the game.”

After the Jazz pulled to within six on a Neto layup with 1:18 remaining, Westbrook hit two free throws and then made a thunderous dunk to help stave off an unlikely rally by Utah.

“I think we just kept playing. That was the biggest thing,” Exum said. “We just brought the energy that the bench guys have out there.”

Exum was as energetic as anybody, finishing with a career-high 22 points thanks to multiple aggressive drives and hot shooting (7-8 from the field, 7-9 from the free-throw line). The Jazz outscored the Thunder by 15 points in the 26-plus minutes the third-year Aussie played.

Burks had a season-high 21 points, and Bolomboy had his best-ever NBA game with a career-high eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

“I just try to stay ready,” Bolomboy said. “When I heard my name called up. I knew I had to come in there and try to give this team a spark. Coach told me to be aggressive and just play basketball. … It felt really good.”

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It felt anything but good for the Jazz when their starters — George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson and Jeff Withey — were on the court. Those five only combined for 29 points on 10-of-31 shooting.

None of the Jazz starters played in the fourth quarter when Utah made its push. Snyder said they were supportive of their teammates from the bench.

“No. Those guys that got us to single digits were the guys. … That was their game,” said Snyder when asked if he considered bringing the starters back in. “They’d earned that opportunity throughout the game.”

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Published at Sun, 12 Mar 2017 00:55:00 +0000