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Utah Jazz fall flat, lose to OKC Thunder in Dante Exum’s return

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The Jazz offense in this one was... not ideal

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the beautiful game, avert your eyes. This was not the game for you.

The Utah Jazz (37-29) showed up only in spurts as they were dropped by the Oklahoma City Thunder (41-26) 98-89. The defense was adequate, but the offense was horrendous.

One of the biggest storylines going into this one was that Dante Exum would make his return from injury. Despite reports that he would be on a 16-20 minute restriction, he played only 14. Most of that came in the fourth quarter.

Exum’s first stint at the end of the first quarter lasted four minutes. In that span, he:

  • Was immediately called for a foul
  • Fumbled a rebound out of bounds
  • Stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive
  • Air balled a 3
  • Stepped out of bounds again

Ok, so that could’ve gone better.

The Jazz shot 2-of-10 from 3 in the first quarter and scored only 21 points, but the Thunder weren’t much better, keeping it to a one-point deficit at the end of the first. The offense would click, we all thought.

We were all wrong.

There was 8:11 remaining in the second quarter before the Jazz scored a single point in the frame on a Royce O’Neale 3. Royce was about the only bright spot offensively tonight, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 5-of-10 from 3.

The second quarter also featured Dante Exum’s return, take 2. He checked in with two minutes remaining in the first half. In those two minutes, he was credited with:

  • 1 kicked ball violation

At this point, Mychal spoke for all of us.

Utah scored 16 points in the second quarter. This was a tough watch. In the first half, Utah shot 33.3 percent from the field, 20.8 percent from 3. The Thunder were somehow even worse from behind the arc at 18.2 percent, but better overall, giving them the 50-37 lead.

The second half was largely listless, despite the Jazz making a couple of runs to cut the deficit to single digits. The third quarter included Donovan Mitchell doing some Donovan things:

Mitchell finished with 25 on 8-of-22 shooting, 3-of-8 from 3. He also chipped in 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, but was a -10 on the night.

Exum got the majority of his minutes in the fourth quarter, playing the first 8 minutes and the last minute of the final frame. A lot of it ultimately amounted to garbage time, but it was his most promising stint of the night.

He finally got some run handling the ball to start the fourth quarter and had a pretty assist to Derrick Favors on a lob from the top of the arc. He also had some great defense against Paul George, including a forced turnover, and a drive and kick to O’Neale for 3. Perhaps a sign of the rust beginning to shake off.

The bigger issue, though, is that this loss drops the Jazz to the No. 8 seed in the West. With the schedule being what it is and the lead they have on the Sacramento Kings, it’s too early to push the panic button about missing the playoffs. However, any chance they have at pushing higher than the No. 6 seed is starting to slip through their hands.

There’s not much more to say about this one. Something’s gotta change if Utah has any hopes of making a postseason impact this year.