The Utah Jazz hold the best record in the NBA and had no trouble taking care of the struggling Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. Losers of two-straight coming into the night, the Jazz were able to get back on track and pull off a 109-93 victory over the Thunder.
After dominating each of the first three quarters, OKC held Utah to just 17 points in the fourth quarter, turning a 26-point deficit into a game that looked a bit closer.
The Thunder continue to play a full 48 minutes, regardless of the situation. This is something head coach Mark Daigneault has preached all season, saying that you can only worry about things you can control, one of which is your effort.
“We’re just trying to tick forward," said Daigneault postgame on Friday. "We’re just trying to use these games to understand what we have and I thought we did that again tonight.”
This showed true on Friday night as Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 29 points in the second half. After a solid fourth quarter, continuing to give everything they had, they cut the final lead down to 16 points.
This turnaround came on the backs of Jaylen Hoard and Gabriel Deck, who both played outstanding In the final frame. Both players who are competing for a spot on the long-term roster, they were able to show their value late in the game.
NBA Sixth Man of the Year favorite Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points off the bench for the Jazz, doing what he does best. Rudy Gobert had no problem being productive against the young, inexperienced Thunder bigs, putting up 16 points and 18 rebounds.
Still working with a pretty thin roster, the Thunder struggled to get much production out of any of their players. In fact, only three players on the entire roster scored in double-figures on Friday night. Gabriel Deck and Theo Maledon scored 18 points each while Svi Mykhailiuk led OKC in scoring with 19 points, including 17 in the first half.
Oklahoma City is in the top half of the league when it comes to 3-point attempts, taking 35.3 per contest. However, they don't shoot it very efficiently from deep at just 33.9 percent, which is second-worst in the league.
With that in mind, the Thunder were smart with their shots on Friday and didn't take too many threes. In fact, they only attempted 19 on the night, converting on six of them.
This means that just 22.6 percent of their shots from the floor against Utah were from beyond the arc. On the season, OKC has been somewhere more in the ballpark of 40.2 percent when it comes to their ratio of shots from three.
In a league where the 3-point shot has become so prevalent, it's hard to win games if you're not knocking down double-digit threes per game as a team. While the Thunder aren't greats from that range, they will need to improve on finding more quality looks in the flow of the offense without taking more threes than they should.
The Thunder's final game will take place at home in Oklahoma City against the LA Clippers on Sunday night. This late in the season, the Clippers recently rested their key players against the Houston Rockets and lost. With draft lottery position on the line, it will be interesting to see the roster the Thunder roll out in their final game.