ORLANDO, Florida – The game that was meant to take place on March 11 but rather became to focal point to a global pandemic arriving in the United States finally happened, and it ended with a 110-94 Thunder win over the Utah Jazz.
The Oklahoma City Thunder went 3-0 in scrimmages leading up to meaningful seeding games, and the team continued its dominance leading the Jazz throughout the entire 48 minutes played.
“Overall I was pleased with how the guys played,” Billy Donovan said following the game. “We moved the offense and generated good shots, but we were careless with turnovers.”
Despite the Thunder shooting 53 percent from the floor and 39 percent from behind the arc, the Thunder turned the ball over 21 times having to make up for their mistakes posing defensive threats to limit the Jazz from benefiting from these slip-ups.
The Thunder’s defense, however, was on and heated limiting the Jazz to only 15 first-quarter points making this the fewest points allowed by OKC this season.
Chris Paul led the way for the Thunder finishing with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Paul also had nothing but positives to say about his teams’ performance and communication skills on the court, ultimately leading to a successful performance against the Jazz.
“Our team has great communication, man,” Paul said. “That’s something that works really well for us.”
The offense got rolling early on for the Thunder as guys like Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander connected on their shots combining for 34 points on 11-22 shooting.
Steven Adams got busy inside the paint matching up well against Rudy Gobert and finishing with 16 points on 7-10 shooting. Adams also snagged 11 boards, three of which were offensive rebounds for second-chance points.
“It’s all part of the game plan, mate,” Adams said postgame. “He’s [Gobert] a threat, but establishing a plan for him was part of entering this game.”
For a game that has been much anticipated by Thunder and Jazz fans, the players also had nerves and emotions entering the matchup as Steven Adams calls finally playing the Jazz an “epiphany.”
“It’s that weird feeling that you’re just in it [the game],” Adams said. “It was an awesome feeling. It was good to just go out there and be competitive.”
The Thunder, who led by 29 at one point, never lost the fire throughout the game and saw big moments from guys off the bench like Dennis Schröder and Darius Bazley. A dynamic second unit is something the Thunder benefit from greatly, and Schröder combined with Bazley for 23 points and 9 rebounds.
In the midst of the excitement for Thunder fans seeing OKC capture a victory over the Jazz, Chris Paul reminds us of the bigger meaning behind the return of the NBA and spoke on the Thunder’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem.
Unity and equality. pic.twitter.com/iC5lCrt4rn
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 1, 2020
“It was special to be able to do that together as a team,” Paul said. “As players, we’ve had a lot of conversations about coming down here [to the bubble] and the bigger reason of what we’re playing for. To do that on the united front was nice.”
Billy Donovan spoke highly of his team’s decision to kneel in solidarity as he participated as well linked arm-in-arm between Quinn Snyder and Donovan Mitchell.
“It’s absolutely something we talked about a lot as a team,” Donovan said. “From an organizational standpoint, we want to support our players.”
The Thunder win 110-94 over the Utah Jazz for its first official NBA game since the shutdown of March 11.
OKC is back in action Monday, Aug. 3, at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT) against the Denver Nuggets.