Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

February 13, 2013

Thunder hits sour note in loss to Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — Kevin Durant had not been called for a flagrant foul in his six-year professional career.

That changed Tuesday night when his frustration boiled over during a 109-94 loss to the Utah Jazz.

His body-check on Alec Burks sent the second-year pro flying out of bounds with 6:06 remaining.

By then the outcome was basically decided, with Al Jefferson scoring 23 points and Paul Millsap 18 to lead the Jazz to a victory.

Utah stopped a two-game losing run and ended the Thunder's four-game winning streak.

"You didn't watch the game? They outrebounded us. They scored in the paint. We turned the ball over. We just gave them the game. They executed on everything they did," Durant said.

"We just got to be better. We made some bone-headed plays. I know I did. We just have to be better."

While a team without a single All-Star showed it can compete with the best, Oklahoma City finds itself regrouping for a big game on Thursday.

The Thunder head home for an NBA Finals rematch with Miami, which has beaten them five straight times going back to June's title series.

The Thunder will try to find the form that had them leading the league in scoring (106.4), free throw shooting (.829) and had routed its past four opponents by an average of 25.3 points.

Instead of sitting starters because they were ahead by so much, head coach Scott Brooks pulled his Tuesday with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining because it was a blowout the other way.

Durant blamed himself, even though he scored a team-high 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, with six rebounds, five assists and four steals. He also had four turnovers.

"I turned the ball over too much," he said. "I didn't help rebound enough. I lead our team. I got to ignite the guys. I got to do better having guys follow me. I got to do better as communicating on the floor as well.

"We have to be better in every aspect. Energy. Effort. Rebounding. Passing. Not turning the ball. We just have to be better. I think we will. We got a team that does a great job of bouncing back and learning from our mistakes."

The Jazz showed they can do that after dropping back-to-back games against Chicago and Sacramento.

Before the game, Millsap said the Jazz were desperate for a win.

"It's a statement win," said DeMarre Carroll, who had 13 points, three rebounds and three steals off the bench for Utah and keyed a big second quarter.

Utah's bench outscored Oklahoma City's 49-25, and the Jazz bigs dominated the boards, holding a 16-7 edge on offensive rebounds and 38-26 advantage overall.

The Thunder also committed 20 turnovers.

The game was scrappy from the start.

Jefferson poked the ball away for a steal in the first quarter and ended up getting poked in the eye so hard it left him sprawled on the floor for about a minute.

Kendrick Perkins was called for a flagrant foul and technical foul, and Carroll and Durant drew double technicals after getting into a little shoving match after Durant's flagrant on Burks.

"It was part of the game," Durant said of his play against Burks. "I'm not a dirty player or anything like that. It was just part of the game. I'm sure they would have done the same thing to me."

He has 10 technicals on the season.

The Jazz led by seven entering the fourth but quickly put the game away, opening on a 6-0 run, with two more baskets from Jefferson.

The Thunder were already down 17 when Durant bumped Burks hard.

Burks, who had a career night in Saturday's loss, was undeterred going against Durant.

"We all know he's a great player but you can't be scared of anybody," said Burks, who added 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

In the first meeting, Oklahoma City dominated, winning by 12.

A fifth straight win by 20 or more Tuesday would have broken a franchise record.

Instead the Thunder suffered their first loss since Feb. 2 at Cleveland.

While Utah's bigs made a big difference, Jefferson outscoring Perkins 23-4 and Millsap outscoring Serge Ibaka 18-10, Utah got the boost from its bench it needed.

Derrick Favors added 15 points and Earl Watson finished with six.

After being embarrassed early on by Russell Westbrook, who opened 5 of 5 from the field, Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley put Utah up 75-63 with a pair of 3-pointers.

A steal by Tinsley then set up Millsap at the other end, giving Utah an 80-67 lead with 2:57 left in the third.

"Nights like this happen," said Westbrook, who added 22 points but had seven turnovers. "You aren't going to play perfect most of the year. Nights like this happen. You just got to get ready for next game."

Oklahoma City shot nearly 56 percent, while the Jazz were at 48.3 percent. But Utah took 19 more shots thanks to the big edge in rebounding.

The win gave the Jazz 20 victories at home this season. They head to Minnesota before the All-Star break, and should get two of their top playmakers back shortly thereafter in point guard Mo Williams and third-leading scorer Gordon Hayward.

"I think that was the biggest game of the year for us, especially coming off two losses," Watson said. "They are a great team, but we didn't give them too much respect. We respect them as opponents, but we went out to win the game."

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