After opening the season with lackadaisical play and two frustrating losses, the Jazz put their world back in order with an impressive 120-99 win in Oklahoma City against Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
It’s clear that as Deron Williams goes, so go the Jazz. Williams got the Jazz off to a quick start and showed the kind of leadership that fans and media called for after his public spat with Gordon Hayward last week. Tonight Deron seemed determined to put every teammate in a position to succeed. Andrei Kirilenko hit shots early, CJ Miles got going, Al Jefferson had his first double-double, and Paul Millsap was an absolute beast. Millsap poured in 30 points to go along with 16 rebounds and brought the kind of energy and intensity that the team was missing in the first two games.
It’s amazing what making shots will do. On a night the Jazz shot 53% from the field and 63% from 3-point land, the entire team seemed energized by the strong play on the defensive side. Kirilenko matched up with Kevin Durant and seemed to keep him off balance most of the game. Durant is still a beast, however, and seemed to knock down a long three or get loose for a short jumper every time Kirilenko relaxed. It speaks to Durant’s virtuosity that scoring 28 points feels like an off night.
The Deron Williams / Russell Westbrook matchup was fun to watch as well. Deron had 16 points and 15 assists while Westbrook scored 22 but passed out just 5 assists. Williams was able to negate some of Westbrook’s speed by staying in front and getting strong team help.
The Thunder are fun to watch and will win a lot of games, but they don’t yet elicit a fear factor. No one is scared to play the Thunder. They need one more dose of nasty before they take it to the next level. Cole Aldrich does reasonable Ostertag-if-he-were-in-shape performance and had a nice moment with a put-back dunk. Serge Ibaka and Nenad Krstic were simply pounded by Millsap and Jefferson.
The inevitable Thunder rally in the third quarter showed some heart from the home team, but the Jazz absorbed the blow and responded with strong play down the stretch. It was a very complete game from everyone and will give the Jazz a lot of good things to build on before hosting the Toronto Raptors at home on Wednesday.
Loose notes from the game:
Deron Williams takes advantage of his former protege Eric Maynor and gets him to bite on a pump fake 3 at the end of the first quarter, drawing the foul.
CJ Miles gets the basket at the end of quarter after Deron Williams harasses Kevin Durant into a turnover.
Jazz lead 27-23 at the end of the first quarter.
Kirilenko with 7 points, Millsap with 6, Williams and Bell with 5.
Willams and Hayward let bygones be bygones and open the quarter with D-Will hitting a cutting Hayward who finishes at the rim.
Cole Aldrich is a big man.
Jazz getting most of their points from curls inside the free throw line.
Broadcast team shows the incident between Williams and Hayward from Thursday night and follows it up with the connection between the two on the first play of the second quarter.
Earl Watson vs Eric Maynor is a battle of very small point guards.
James Harden gets lost chasing Hayward, who gets a wide open dunk off the pass from Millsap.
Al Jefferson is not built like Karl Malone.
CJ Miles slips to the basket and slams home a sneaky feed from Deron Williams.
Millsap is making his money with 15 foot jumpers.
Williams passes up the 3, drives to the hoop and gives a great pass to Jefferson to finish at the rim.
Williams waits out the shot clock, shakes and bakes, kicks to CJ MIles who knocks down the 3.
Several examples of leadership from Williams. Getting Kirilenko going early, feeding CJ (who finishes with 21 points).
Kirilenko makes an acrobatic shot and gets fouled just before the halftime buzzer.
Halftime score 56-40 in favor of the Jazz.
Halftime note: PK is one of the few people who actually look better when wearing a novelty mask.
Kirilenko gets fouled and hits the 3 but can’t convert the free throw.
Kirilenko with the nasty turnaround up and under to get loose and hit the layup.
Rebound tipped around, Jazz take advantage of Thunder trying to deny Deron Williams the ball, push it on the break and get an easy slam on the other end. The next possession Kirilenko grabs a rebound, pushes the ball, gets it to Millsap who finds Raja Bell on the opposite corner. Bell hits the 3.
Russell Westbrook gets aggressive at the basket and somehow gets multiple foul calls. Kirilenko gets stripped of the ball by Sefalosha and the Thunder have new energy. CJ Miles gets stripped of the ball and has to hack Durant to prevent a poster dunk.
Russell Westbrook is a very fast man. Loses Williams and throws down the two-hand dunk. On the other end, Deron Williams returns the favor and hits a layup when the double team miscomunicates.
CJ Miles hits the big 3 and then Westbrook turns the ball over. Al Jefferson goes to work down low for the and-1, stopping the Thunder momentum.
Kevin Durant is still a very bad man. Kirilenko gives him a little room to breathe and he knocks down the 3. Jazz still lead 83-65.
Al Jefferson gives Serge Ibaka fits on the low block.
CJ Miles breaks the press alone and pushes the ball to the rim where he scores and is fouled by Serge Ibaka. He doesn’t convert the free throw, however.
End of the third: Jazz lead 91-74
Jazz break the press with excellent passing, get blocked on the final layup but get the rebound in the scrum and Al Jefferson hits the shot and gets fouled.