By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — With only one victory under his belt this season, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin decided to shake things up. Not only did he change his starting lineup, he said he wanted to slow down the pace his team played at.
Neither seemed to work Sunday when the Jazz traveled to Oklahoma City. Utah matched a season low in points scored as they fell to the Thunder 95-73 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It’s very frustrating,” Corbin said. “Against this ball club here on their floor, I felt we would have more energy right from the beginning of the game. But (Oklahoma City) was the aggressor.”
Forward Serge Ibaka scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help pace the Thunder. Forward Kevin Durant added 19 points on 3-of-9 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Guard Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to score 15 points in the win.
“I think we were really focused from start to finish,” Thabo Sefolosha said. “We put a good game together. And that was important, especially in front of our home crowd.”
Utah had only two players reach double figures in scoring. Center Eric Kanter and forward Rudy Gobert each scored 10 points to lead the Jazz off the bench. Forward Richard Jefferson and center Derrick Favors posted eight points each.
The Jazz (1-14) were on pace to set a season low in points until guard Alec Burks hit a free throw with 8.9 seconds left in the game to match the 73 points it scored Nov. 8 against Chicago.
Utah didn’t help its cause at all on the night. It shot 39 percent from the field and was just 13-for-29 from the free-throw line. The Jazz were also outrebounded 46-33.
Despite playing without Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City started its game against Utah in a business-like manner. Ibaka put it on display in the first quarter when he scored six points and grabbed five rebounds. That included him flying in to grab a rebound and tip dunk back over the Jazz front line.
Oklahoma City (9-3) held a 22-13 advantage after the first quarter.
“When you are not scoring it puts a lot of pressure on your defense to stop a team to keep the game close,” Utah Forward Marvin Williams said. “Unfortunately for us, the team we had to stop was OKC. That’s how a game can get away from you pretty quickly.”
Utah tried to keep the game close by going to guard Gordon Howard and center Derrick Favors. But the Thunder’s defense on the Jazz’s top two players was solid. They combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
“We were really good at putting our hands on the ball and helping each other, and protecting the paint,” Durant said. “If we do that, we really give ourselves a chance, no matter how bad we shoot.”
Oklahoma City got production from every player that touched the floor. Forward Perry Jones and Lamb came off the bench and helped spark the team to a 47-30 halftime lead.
“I just utilize what I have, my abilities, and do the best I can for my team whenever I get in,” Jones said. “Whether it’s 30 seconds or however many minutes I played tonight.”
Thunder kept up their attack in the third quarter and slowly began to open up a 30-point lead. Guard Reggie Jackson, who started his first game since the return of Russell Westbrook, drove through the lane for layups.
The only drama came from the verbal back and forth between Durant and Jefferson. After Jefferson was called for a foul on Durant early in the period, the two exchanged words for the rest of the period.
But it did nothing to slow down the Thunder, who took a 32-point lead into the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City kept its starters on the bench in the fourth quarter.
“You have to fight, man,” Corbin said. “You have to go down fighting. Whatever happens, you have to make sure you give maximum effort and you can fight your way out through there. But if you let teams have their way with you, then it’s difficult. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.”
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