(Photo: Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press)
The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz tonight 100-94 in Oklahoma City, marking the Thunder’s third straight victory. The Thunder trailed much of the game, at one point trailing by as many as 17 points, but fought back to outscore the Jazz by 18 points in the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook recorded his seventh triple double of the season, and Paul George finished with 21 points of his own after a slow shooting start.
This win against the Jazz might not seem like it holds much value, but this might be one of the Thunder’s most important victories of the season. Since acquiring Carmelo Anthony and Paul George this offseason, the Thunder have yet to mesh. Nine of the Thunder losses this year have been by eight points or less. This team has competed and come down to the wire in almost every loss this season, but has never been able to figure out how to close games out. These last three Thunder victories, all against teams over .500, have all been within eight points and all three have come down to the last couple of minutes. This team is finally starting to spark in the fourth quarter where they have fallen flat all season.
So, what has changed for the Thunder over the last couple of games? Well to start off, Steven Adams has become a dominant force down low in this three-game home stand. Adams scored a career high 27 points against Minnesota, added 19 against the Spurs, and put up another 21 tonight against the Jazz. The increased number of looks for Adams has been freeing up Westbrook, George, and Anthony for better looks. Another key for the Thunder is the defense of Andre Roberson. Roberson isn’t going to have much effect on the offensive side of the ball, but his defensive presence is why he starts on this Thunder team. If Adams can continue to play a huge role in the stat sheet as well as Roberson shutting down opposing stars in the fourth quarter, the Thunder might just continue rolling.
The Thunder have Brooklyn, Memphis, Charlotte, Indiana, Philadelphia, and New York as their next six opponents. I think the Thunder will pull five wins out of these six and be right back in the thick of things in the Western Conference.