OKC Thunder hold on against shorthanded Jazz to keep play-in hopes alive

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

In the biggest game of the season thus far, the OKC Thunder kept their composure to hang on and defeat the shorthanded Utah Jazz.

After an up-and-down first three quarters, OKC eventually found its groove to beat Utah 114-98 in the final road game of the season. Although the Jazz’s defense discombobulated the Thunder offense early, OKC eventually started to remember their brand of basketball and come out with a much needed victory.

The OKC Thunder hang on to defeat the Utah Jazz 114-98 despite Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s shooting struggles.

The Utah Jazz did not really have any intention of winning this game. Their star forward Lauri Markkanen and rookie sensation Walker Kessler were among the long list of inactive players for the Jazz. However, the Thunder knew all too well that they can’t underestimate an opponent.

In the first quarter, the Jazz came out swarming star guard Gilgeous-Alexander, who was not his typical self on the offensive side of the floor. At every opportunity, the Jazz were throwing double-teams at SGA, who shot just 7-for-19 from the field from the floor in this game, including only one make in his rare five three-point attempts.

The three-point shot killed the Thunder throughout the first half of this game. OKC started out shooting 5-of-11 from three as a team, but as the Jazz transitioned into a 1-3-1 zone, Thunder players started chucking perimeter shots and stopped penetrating the basket. Over time, OKC went cold from three and allowed the Jazz to climb their way back into the game. The Thunder’s 45 three-point attempts are tied for the second-most attempts as a team this season.

Thankfully for the OKC Thunder, the Jazz couldn’t shoot either, converting a season-low five three-pointers on the night.

After leading by 16 points in the second quarter, OKC found themselves up by just three headed into halftime.

Toward the end of the third quarter, the Thunder finally got back to their style of basketball, attacking the paint and forcing turnovers.

Aaron Wiggins played a huge part in Oklahoma City’s second half resurgence, scoring 15 points on the night and recording three steals on the other end. Dario Saric was also a massive contributor off the bench for the Thunder, putting up 14 points and 10 rebounds.

In total, the OKC Thunder recorded 50 bench points and seven players scored in double-digits.

Josh Giddey was spectacular for OKC in this game, scoring 17 points, snagging three steals and cashing in two threes. Giddey was on triple-double watch for most of the game, ending with eight rebounds and eight assists, including another magical inbound pass to Gilgeous-Alexander.

Giddey was not the only player on triple-double watch tonight, as Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds, but was two assists shy of a triple-double.

The Thunder went on an 19-2 run between the third and fourth quarters to give them a huge boost. The Jazz rebutted with a 7-0 run of there own, but could not catch up as OKC pulled away with their biggest win of the season.

The Oklahoma City Thunder now need just one more win or one more Dallas Mavericks loss to clinch a play-in spot. As for the Utah Jazz, they have been eliminated from play-in contention. It’s officially Thunder vs. Mavs for the 10-seed in the Western Conference and the final spot in the play-in tournament.

Oklahoma City will now head home for their final game of the season, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

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