OKLAHOMA CITY — There have been many games this season that Oklahoma City has won with its offense. With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin in the lineup, it can always put up points.
But for the third straight game, the Thunder showed they can rely on their defense when they want to. Oklahoma City defeated Utah 106-94 Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Jazz committed 18 turnovers against an aggressive Oklahoma City defense, which they turned into 25 points.
“We were just physical right when they cross the half court line,” Martin said. “You know with Utah you have to get ready for a physical game. And they try and beat you up on the boards. We just had to be ready.”
After trailing by as much as 18 points, Utah stormed back in the fourth and trimmed Oklahoma City’s lead down to 4 with 7:40 left in the game. It had momentum squarely on its side.
“We just clicked,” Utah’s Al Jefferson said. “We started attacking and got rebounds. We kept them on their toes. We cut it to four.”
But a pair of hustle steals on the same play Westbrook led to a Durant dunk.
Believing Westbrook had fouled Earl Watson twice, Corbin was called for a technical when he argued with an official. Durant hit the free throw and Oklahoma City pushed its lead back to 10.
Down the stretch, whenever the Jazz attempted to cut the Thunder’s lead down to single digits, Oklahoma City found a way to repel them. Whether it was Serge Ibaka or Durant coming up with a block, a steal from Westbrook or a few key offensive rebounds out of Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder made defensive stops when needed.
“The key was just keeping our game plan and attacking on the offensive end,” Martin said. “During that time they were getting some easy fastbreak points so we just had to get back.”