They live! Or they're at least un-dead.
You couldn't prescribe a better win for a Jazz team that has struggled to say the least in their first two games of the season.
Road win? Check. Division opponent? Check. Running the offense? Check. Break-out games for key players? Check. Assists? Check. 53% shooting. 7/11 from three. 25-30 from the line. It was all there tonight.
I tweeted that not even the most homerific Jazz fan would have predicted a 21-point blowout in OKC. Everyone was just looking for improvement from the last game. They got that and more. Don't crown the Thunder just yet.
The Jazz got their first lead of the season on a three-point shot from Andrei Kirilenko that made it 5-4. After another AK jumper that gave the Jazz a 7-6 lead, the Jazz would have at least a share of the lead for the rest of the game.
The Jazz effectively put the game away starting in the second quarter when they went on a 10-0 run late that turned a 46-40 lead into a 56-40 (in case you couldn't do the quick math) going into the break. They scored another 5 points to start the third before the Thunder ended the 15-0 run.
A full-court press finally gave the Thunder some life. They were able to force multiple turnovers that led to quick and easy baskets. Once the Jazz slowed things down a bit and remembered how to break a press from their college days, they were able to withstand the charge.
Oklahoma City was able to trim the lead to 13 early in the fourth after back-to-back layups by Russel Westbrook. The Thunder couldn't get closer than 14 the rest of the way and at the 4:11 mark, Scott Brooks pulled his starters and the Jazz coasted to the 21-point victory.
OKC continued their dismal shooting for the season. They shot right at the 40% mark that they've had for the first two games. Their three-point shooting was only slightly better than their 17% pace at 25%. And they were only able to keep it moderately close by going to the free-throw line 34 times and making 30 of those.
The Jazz on the other hand had their best offensive output by far on the young season. They scored a 116 offensive efficiency when they had only managed 93.7 in their first two games. They had a very Jazz-like 32 assists on 44 made field goals. The spacing was much better this game which allowed them to have some better interior passing. This offense is a thing of beauty when it's ran correctly.
This was just the treat that the Jazz (and their fans) needed on this All Hallow's Eve. Now that we know the Jazz can run the offense and make things work, we'll see how things go over the next 10 games or so. Are the Jazz going to be Jekyll and Hyding it or will they find some consistency?
Let's take a look at some of the player performances
He's been the MVP of the first three games of the season by far, topping it with an MVP-type performance tonight. 30 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 assists. Those 30 points came on 12/19 shooting. Just a dominating performance by Mansap tonight. His field goal percentage actually dropped a couple hundredths of a percentage point tonight, no shooting just 63.4% in three games. He's now averaging 22 & 9.6 on the season. He's got that right-side, midrange jumper down; defenses keep giving it to him.
As long as we're doling out awards already, CJ got MIP for this game. It was great seeing him take one coast to coast before the buzzer and then pulling up and stroking the three. He was able to stay out of foul trouble and showed us what's possible when he can stay on the court. In the end, he went 8/13 from the field (3 threes) to finish with 21 points.
There wasn't any one move tonight that screamed "ninja" but he was back in form. 16 points, 15 points, and 6 rebounds. He ran a great game on offense and most importantly, didn't knock any body parts off of Hayward with passes.
Big Al's shots still weren't falling as much as we'd like, but he looked a lot more comfortable in the offense. He was looking for cutters and waiting for them to clear before making his move. I was surprised that the Thunder didn't double-team him more given his struggles with that the first two games. Though he missed more than he made (6/14), he got the free-throw line 12 times and made 11 of those. Add in two and-1's and he was fired up.
AK had his best performance on the season as well. It was another one of those "no, no, no, yes!" nights with AK and his jumper. He was 7/12 from the floor with two threes. Four assists rounded out his night on the offensive end.
On defense, he was able to hold Durant to only 28 points. Durant had another poor shooting night from the floor making just 8 of his 19 shots. He was able to get to the line another 9 times though and that's been his staple so far this season.
Really though, I was waiting for Durant to turn things on like he did in the last game in Utah. He did nail a couple of threes during that mini-rally but it wasn't enough.
He's impressive. I knew he was a good player and he always gives Deron fits. I watched him a little more tonight after Deron's pre-game comments about him. He burned Deron a few times tonight. I'm most amazed at the way he finishes at the rim. He made a couple of shots and made them look easy.
Raja Bell had a solid game, hitting his only three-pointer in 19 minutes. His shot looked much better tonight.
Hayward is still working out the rookie kinks. During that time when OKC pressed, he had a charge called when he pushed things and had two people that he could have dished to. On the next break, he missed a layup when he was out of position and had to try a reverse layup.
Jeremy Evans sprained his wrist and x-rays were negative. He said he'll be fine.
You have to breathe a huge sigh of relief if you're a Jazz fan. I was ready to call this a win at the half, even if the Thunder came back and won. It would have been a heart-breaker for sure but we saw two excellent quarters from the Jazz and that alone would have been an improvement.
As it is, the Jazz turn in an impressive win and one that will go a long ways to restore some confidence and unity. We'll see the Thunder again next month when the Jazz return from a four-game road trip. The Jazz will now return home to face Toronto, then travel to Golden State before hosting the Clippers. Those are all three winnable games.