After a longer-than-expected layoff, the Utah Jazz suited up on Thursday night for a matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Having won 6 straight and 9 of 10, this game loomed as a heat check for the Jazz to see how they measured up with the best of the West.
Early on, the Thunder showed why they are #2 in the West, running off a 22-6 run to open a big lead in the first quarter with 64% shooting early, helped by some quick whistles on Kris Dunn that sent him to the bench with 3 early fouls. This took the Jazz's best defender out of the game and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander responded with 10 first-quarter points as the Jazz looked, to quote AC-DC, Thunderstruck.
In the 2nd quarter, it stayed a double-digit deficit for the Jazz until an 8-2 run brought them within 6 points at the 3:15 mark, at which OKC took a quick timeout to regroup. The Thunder then outscored the Jazz to take the lead 76-67 at the half.
In the 3rd, the Jazz came out and took care of the ball better, after 10 first-half turnovers. They outscored the Thunder 22-15 to close the lead to 2 points, 91-89 with 3:37 remaining in the quarter.
They would tie the game at 91 just over 30 seconds later, and force a shot clock violation a few plays later. The score at the end of the 3rd was OKC 98, Utah 95.
In the 4th, the game swung back to the Thunder as the Jazz couldn't keep pace. Later that quarter, the Jazz closed it to 4 with just over 2 minutes remaining, before the Thunder scored a few baskets to put them back ahead 7. Then Collin Sexton drove for a quick dunk and closed it to 4 before the Thunder dropped a 3 to make it 133-126.
Jordan Clarkson made a clutch 3 at the top of the arc to cut it back to 4, then the Thunder couldn't convert at the other end, as Jalen Williams of OKC committed an offensive foul that gave the ball back to the Jazz with 20 seconds left.
The Jazz competed but ultimately couldn't seal the deal, as Oklahoma City won the game 134-129. It was a tough loss for the Jazz, as they fought back in the 2nd half and tried to pull out the win. Collin Sexton had a monstrous game, with 31 points and 7 assists. Lauri Markkanen followed up with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists after a slow start.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's 31 points, and Jalen Williams' 27 points and 8 assists. They simply hit the big shots when needed and kept the Jazz at bay much of the night.
The Jazz (22-21) complete their homestand with a 4-1 mark, and head out now on a 6-game road trip through the end of the month, starting on Saturday evening at the Houston Rockets (19-21).