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OKLAHOMA CITY — Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz's 107-79 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder from KSL.com's Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Injured Jazz have no answer against Thunder perimeter strength
Why did the Jazz score only 79 points tonight?
I think you have to first give credit to the Oklahoma City defense, which seemingly has mastered walling off the paint with their length and athleticism. Paul George and Andre Roberson are obviously all-world defenders, but I don't think enough credit is given to what Russell Westbrook and especially Steven Adams do. Repeatedly, Adams just stonewalls quicker guards that attack him by moving his feet and sneakily using his physicality.
That led to the Jazz only scoring 30 points in the paint all night long, the third-lowest Jazz total this season. Instead, they were forced to take really bad shots from outside, they didn't have much of a prayer of going in.
There's also just the fact that the Thunder are just ridiculously more talented than the Jazz. Head coach Quin Snyder pointed this out postgame. "They're a more athletic team than us, almost at every position."
He's right. The Thunder have three Olympians, the reigning MVP, and a center who is probably deserving of his max contract in Adams. After tonight's game, they have the best defensive rating in the league. I made this joke on Twitter before the game (and apologies for embedding my own corny tweet):
By the way, that's one reason why Donovan Mitchell has quickly earned such a big role on the Jazz: he's their only athletic weapon. But without him, how do the Jazz have a chance while being undermatched at every position?
"If that's the case, we need each other more. It begins with spacing. You may not beat your guy, but you try to get a little bit of an advantage, and then someone else has a chance to beat their guy," Snyder explains.
"There's a lot of things that aren't happening. Someone tries to make a play but it's a low-percentage play." In other words, the Jazz were not only outclassed, they were outsmarted on Wednesday. And that's the part Snyder likes least.
2. Turnovers kill Utah
The other game-killing issue was turnovers. In the first quarter alone, they had seven turnovers, leading to 10 Oklahoma City points. Ricky Rubio, in particular, has to be better. This pass isn't a bad idea, but it's just four feet in front of Favors, nowhere near on target.
Triple Team videos. Sometimes, Rubio turns the ball over by passing it off target: pic.twitter.com/AcYXjWgrhL — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 21, 2017
But there were other turnovers that *were* bad ideas. Like, Rubio doesn't have an advantage here, trying to dribble through Roberson. Someone has to make a play, but not that play. That kind of desperation leads to two very easy points on the other end.
Sometimes, though, it's just bad decisions: pic.twitter.com/0rMqT9Ofnb — Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 21, 2017
Rubio isn't the only problem here, by the way. He had five turnovers tonight, but Rodney Hood had four, and normally surehanded Royce O'Neale and Joe Johnson had three and two, combined.
"Can't turn over the ball like that and win. It's that simple. We had six turnovers against Houston, and Houston's got a really aggressive defense," Synder pointed out. "There just has to be a mindset that you have, and you have to be more sure and more efficient."
3. Observations from courtside
The media seats in Oklahoma City are the best in the league. Instead of sitting beat writers at the top of the lower bowl, or in a corner, they sit us right behind the scorers table so that we have some of the best views of the action. This probably lowers revenue for them, but the hope is that the writers can have a better understanding of the game and share that information to fans.
So to fulfill that promise, here are some of the things I learned from sitting so close:
- The sneaky physicality of Steven Adams. I am 100 percent certain of this: Adams commits a foul on every single possession. He grabs and holds constantly, but does it in really smart ways. He watches where the referees are standing and then puts his hands on an offensive player's hips such that it's not in the refs' line of sight. It means every roll is interrupted, every drive slowed. It's pretty brilliant.
Snyder was as animated as I've ever seen him when picking up a technical foul, yelling at referee Sean Wright. Why was he so mad? Well, that the referees weren't calling the above sort of contact was obviously at the top of his mind, but there was one event that caused Snyder to erupt. > This was the call against Jerebko that cause Snyder to explode: pic.twitter.com/lbwk3Gp9Ua
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) December 21, 2017After this play, Jerebko was obviously upset with the whistle (again, see how Adams keeps the initial push low so it escapes attention?), but referee Wright said something to Jerebko that Snyder didn't like. Snyder swore up and down at Wright for the next minute, eventually drawing the technical.
- That Russell Westbrook is a crazy person. Okay, I suppose we all knew this with the way Westbrook acts in every facet of his life. But no one else in the world is as invested in every possession as Westbrook. He yells, he pounds his chest, his eyes burn through his opposition when playing defense. It's actually a little bit frightening.