Serge Ibaka’s absence due to flu-like symptoms is easily the most logical explanation for why, after holding every other opponent to under 50% shooting all season, they allowed a 58.8% overall shooting percentage from the Jazz last night. Although it seemed like, regardless of how many hands you put in Gordon Heyward’s face, you couldn’t get him to miss last night.
It was nothing but struggle the entire night for the Thunder. The first quarter stayed pretty close, but the Thunder’s 2-point lead (28-26) with 46.9 seconds remaining in the 1st quarter, would be their last lead of the game.
Throughout the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the Jazz hit shot after shot, eventually building a lead as large as 24. Then a strange thing happened: The Thunder got serious.
With 10:23 left in the game, the Thunder spark an 18-7 run that brought them to within 5 (99-94). The problem was, that was when Heyward decided to nail the Thunder’s coffin. He scored the last 17 points for the Jazz off of 13-for-16 shooting to give the Jazz a 112-101 victory that puts them at 12-25 for the season, while dropping the Thunder to 27-8.
Part of the Thunder’s problem is that they were basically a two-man show without Russell Westbrook or Ibaka in the lineup. Kevin Durant’s 48 points, and Reggie Jackson’s 20 points were the only significant Thunder contributions last night, as the bench failed to provide any spark whatsoever. They were actually outscored 26-23 in bench points by the Jazz, which is not something the Thunder are used to seeing.
Heyward was easily the game MVP with a career-high 37 points and 11 rebounds. He posted the only double-double on either side. But the other four starters also logged double-digit points: Derrick Favors dropped 15, Marcus Williams posted 12, and Trey Burke and Richard Jefferson chipped in 10 apiece. Even Eric Kanter chipped in 10 from the Jazz bench.
Hopefully, Ibaka will be able to shake the bug by Thursday night, as the Thunder head to the Pepsi Center to face off with the Denver Nuggets. The game is scheduled to tip off at 9:30pm CST, and will be featured as the back end of TNT’s double-header. You can also catch the broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, or WWLS The Sports Animal.