SALT LAKE CITY — There were probably plenty of Jazz fans who didn't know who Abdul Nader was before Friday night. They likely wish they still didn’t know.
Nader replaced Russell Westbrook after he fouled out near the end of the first overtime on Friday night. Moments later, Nader was drilling a 3-pointer. Then he stole the ball at the beginning of the second overtime that led to another 3-pointer. Those two plays loomed large in the Thunder's 148-147 double-overtime victory over the Jazz in Oklahoma City.
But someone the Jazz fans already knew? Paul George. And he was the one that put the final dagger into Utah's chances on Friday.
With the Thunder down by one point and the second ticking away, George cut through Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio and put up a high arcing floater that found the bottom of the net with 0.8 seconds remaining.
“We got beat on a really difficult shot by a really good player,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Kyle Korver had a contested 3-pointer in the corner at the buzzer that hit off the back of the iron.
The finish was worthy of the entire game. It’s been nearly a season since the Jazz and Thunder faced off in the 2018 playoffs, but it almost felt like this was Game 7 from that series. The game was physical, it was intense and it had star performances from each team.
George’s game-winning floater completed an MVP-caliber night for the Thunder forward. George finished with 45 points and nine rebounds in 50 minutes and Westbrook added 43 points and 15 rebounds in what might have been his best game of the season.
But even with the Thunder’s two stars going off, the Jazz went toe-to-toe with OKC and had chances to win the game at the end of regulation and both overtimes.
Donovan Mitchell and Rubio both hit shots that gave the Jazz the lead in the final minute of regulation. Mitchell missed a shot at the end of the first overtime that would have won the game. And the Jazz missed three shots in the final 20 seconds of the second overtime.
But those missed chances were just one of the reasons the Jazz couldn’t close out the Thunder. The main culprit, though, was turnovers.
The Jazz coughed up the ball twice in a row with a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Mitchell dribbled it out of bounds in the first overtime wasting a chance to seize momentum. And then the Jazz lost the ball on a rebound to start the second overtime that led to a Thunder 3-pointer and giving them early momentum in the final stanza.
In all, the Jazz had 24 turnovers with Rubio finishing with eight himself. And it wasn’t so much the number, but the timing of them. It seemed that every time the Jazz had a chance to close out the game, the turned it over.
“Late ones really killed us,” Mitchell said.
That was echoed by Snyder.
“We had a few off of those that were momentum stoppers,” he said.
That led to a sour end to a game that for the most part showed how good the Jazz can be.
Mitchell had 38 points, Rudy Gobert had 26 and 16 rebounds and was a major force in the overtimes. Derrick Favors hit his first nine shots on his way to a 24-point night and Jae Crowder had 20 points off the bench.
There won’t be a lot of time for this one to linger. Utah will play Saturday night in Salt Lake City against Dallas.
“It was a fun game — fun to play, fun to watch. On to the next one,” Rubio said.