Chris Paul

Utah Jazz's Georges Niang (31) guards Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. AP Photo / Ashley Landis

Chris Paul dribbled around a Steven Adams screen and rose up to hit one of his patented mid-range jump shots over the outstretched arms of Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

On the next possession, Paul found Danilo Gallinari for an open 3-pointer, which pushed the Thunder lead to 20-9 midway through the first quarter.

The Jazz never got any closer the rest of the game.

The Thunder put on an impressive show on both ends of the floor Saturday, defeating the Jazz 110-94 in its first game of the NBA restart. Oklahoma City led by as many as 28 points in the third quarter, as Utah's offense never found its rhythm.

The Thunder had six players score in double figures, led by 19 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Paul's 18 points.

Saturday’s win pushes the Thunder closer to gaining the fourth seed, as they trail the Jazz by just a half game in the Western Conference standings.

With the Thunder’s first game in nearly five months behind them, here are four things to know from Saturday’s win:

1. Paul dominates the Jazz

Paul was in complete control on both ends Saturday.

He finished with seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals to go with his 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He did it all in just 27 minutes of play.

While the Thunder has maintained success by sharing the scoring load between several players, Paul is the engine of this team. As the Thunder look to continue building its momentum, it’s clear it will go as far as Paul can take them.

2. Thunder defense makes a statement

The Thunder’s commitment to defense was on display from the opening tip.

The Jazz shot just 39% from the floor and 26% from the 3-point line, including a 7-of-22 shooting performance in the first quarter. Thunder guard Luguentz Dort had an obvious impact on Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who made 5-of-15 shots from the floor and scored just 13 points — well below his single-game average of 24 points this season.

The Thunder held the Jazz to 15 points in the first quarter, which tied for their lowest scoring output in a quarter since 2017, according to the ESPN broadcast.

While the Thunder’s offense will get credit for its performance, the defense helped create the team’s early lead on Saturday.

3. Billy Donovan shows his playoff rotation

With many questions surrounding the Thunder’s potential playoff rotation, coach Donovan provided some clarity during Saturday’s game.

Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo was the first player off the bench on Saturday. Rookie Darius Bazley played 28 minutes. Guards Terrance Ferguson and Abdul Nader didn’t play until garbage time.

Diallo and Bazley rewarded Donovan with their performances, combining for 19 points, 11 rebounds and four 3-pointers.

While nothing is set in stone, it looks like Dennis Schröder, Nerlens Noel, Gallinari and Bazley will likely get the bulk of the bench minutes at Disney World.

4. Adams outplays Gobert

Adams looked ready for his matchup with fellow center Gobert on Saturday, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two assists on 7-of-10 shooting. Gobert finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Adams was active on both ends of the floor, providing solid rim protection (two blocks) and solid offense.

Adams has had disappointing playoff performances the last two seasons, but it looks like the NBA shutdown may have given him some much needed rest. 

If Adams can continue making a significant impact, that could provide the Thunder with a huge boost through the rest of the season.

Up next

The Thunder will play the Denver Nuggets at 3 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3. The game will air on FOX Sports Oklahoma, NBA TV and WWLS-FM 98.1 in Oklahoma City.

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