Tahlequah Daily Press

Thunder/NBA

November 25, 2013

Thunder cruises to win against over-matched Jazz

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City is having no problem adjusting to the occasional game without All-Start Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder cruised to a 95-73 win over struggling Utah on Sunday night while their star point guard took the night off to rest his surgically repaired right knee.

They did so behind 19 points from Kevin Durant, as well as a 17-point, 11-rebound effort from Serge Ibaka — stretching their lead to as many as 37 points in the third quarter before finishing the game out with reserves.

"We just wanted to play our game," Durant said. "No matter who's on the floor, we want to execute a game plan on both ends.

"... Of course, we would love to have Russell out, but everybody stepped up."

Durant sat out the fourth quarter for Oklahoma City (9-3), which won its fifth straight overall and sixth straight at home to open the season, its best opening stretch since moving from Seattle.

Westbrook missed his first action since sitting for the season's opening two games while recovering from the second of two offseason knee surgeries. He's expected back when the Thunder host Western Conference leader San Antonio on Wednesday.

Utah (1-14), which has lost six straight games, was led by 10 points apiece from Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert.

The Jazz looked for a spark in the lineup by starting former Michigan standout Trey Burke, the ninth overall pick in the June draft. Burke, playing in his third game since returning from surgery on his right index finger, struggled throughout — finishing with four points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Utah needed a 30-point fourth quarter to avoid its lowest point total of the season.

As it was, the Jazz equaled their worst output of the season, and they nearly equaled their previous worst loss of 24 points — which has happened twice this season.

Utah, which shot just 39.4 percent (28 of 71), is winless on the road at 0-9. It's the only Western Conference team without a road win, and the start is the worst on the road for the Jazz since opening the 1979-80 season 0-11 away from home.

"We're trying to build who we are in this league with this group of guys, and we've got to have more of a sense of urgency to start a game, especially against a team that's this good," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.

The game was third straight at home for Oklahoma City, which is in the middle of six-game home stand.

Playing the Jazz provided the perfect opportunity for Thunder coach Scott Brooks to give Westbrook five straight nights off.

The Thunder took a 75-38 lead late in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Thabo Sefolosha, who finished with nine points, and they led 47-30 at halftime.

"Our philosophy is like everybody else; we want to make teams take tough shots, and I thought we did that tonight," Brooks said.

Reggie Jackson — starting in place of Westbrook — finished with 10 points. Jeremy Lamb added 15 points and Perry Jones had 13 off the Oklahoma City bench, which finished with a combined 36 points.

"We trust them, we believe in them, and they believe in themselves," Sefolosha said. "They're playing extremely well, they're improving, working really hard, all of them on their game and it shows."

Oklahoma City struggled in the early going without Westbrook, hitting just one of its first eight shots.

The cold shooting was short lived for the NBA's sixth-highest scoring team, which entered the game averaging 104.3 points per game.

Even without their All-Star point guard, the Thunder hit 17 of their next 29 shots and finished the first half 18 of 37 (48.6 percent) from the field. They led by as many as 20 points in the half, taking a 47-27 lead after back-to-back baskets by Ibaka, and the Jazz — 29th in the league in scoring — offered little resistance.

Utah shot just 33.3 percent (13 of 39) in the first half.

"When you're not scoring, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense to stop a team to keep the game close," Jazz forward Marvin Williams said. "Unfortunately for us, the team we had to stop was Oklahoma City. That's how a game can kind of get away from you pretty quickly."

NOTES: The streak of Oklahoma City fans hitting halftime shots for $20,000 ended at two after a fan air-balled his second-quarter attempt. ... Thunder fans have hit five half-court shots during the 2013 calendar year ... Oklahoma City was 34-7 at home last season.

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