Jazz offense breaks loose in preseason win over Thunder
The Jazz can run, all right.
After years of watching Western Conference opponents get faster, the Utah Jazz rolled out an offense Friday night in their 97-81 preseason win against Oklahoma City that was crisp in transition, was validated by timely 3-point shots and initiated by fierce interior defense that produced eight blocked shots.
"We've been working on it since Day 1 in training camp," point guard Mo Williams said. "Coach has been beating it in, guys are responding well to it."
Playing without Paul Millsap and Jamaal Tinsley, both away for personal reasons, the Jazz outscored a watered-down Thunder team 29-16 in fast-break points. Six players scored in double figures, and the Jazz never trailed against the defending Western Conference champions.
Mo Williams, acquired via trade in the offseason from the Clippers, finished with a team-high 15 points.
"I'm the head of the snake, so I'm going to have to push the ball," Williams said. "I have wings that can really get out and run and they can make plays off the dribble when they get it."
After Williams, the Jazz were remarkably even. Gordon Hayward scored 13, Marvin Williams, Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter added 12, while Alec Burks contributed 11.
Oklahoma City held out James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and three-time defending scoring leader Kevin Durant scored just nine points in 19 minutes. The Thunder were led by 12 points from forward Serge Ibaka.
The Jazz gave fans their first look at an offense that seemed likely after offseason additions made the Jazz more athletic and better from the perimeter.
"I thought that that's the kind of tempo that we want to create right from the beginning of the game," coach Tyrone Corbin said.
But perhaps the most promising sign for the Jazz wasn't Marvin or Mo Williams, who combined to make all three of the Jazz's 3-pointers, or Derrick Favors, who blocked three shots in the spot start. It was Burks, the second-year guard out of Colorado who picked up point guard minutes and scored 11 points. While most of Burks' scoring came on drives to the basket, his most memorable play which will land him on SportsCenter and every other highlights show from here to eternity.
In any Dunk of the Night Awards, Burks may have stolen the prize from Enes Kanter, who earlier in the night took a pass from Randy Foye up for a strong one-handed, up-and-under jam.
Kanter cast his vote for Burks.
"I think it was a great dunk," he said. "When he came off the bench, was talking about, 'Oh my dunk was better, yours was weak,' whatever. It was a great dunk."
It was also symbolic of Burks' aggressiveness throughout the night.
"I like it," Burks said. "This is how I played in college. That's the type of player I am: I like to get on the break, creating on fast-break opportunities."
The Jazz are improving on an already fairly polished offensive product. Last season, they were fourth in scoring, but they were disastrous from the outside, making only 32.3 percent of their 3-pointers.
The Jazz made only three 3s against the Thunder, but they were timely, including a shot in transition by Mo Williams with 2:16 left in the third quarter to push the Jazz's lead to 70-61.
The only glaring rough spot for the Jazz was Favors, who started after Millsap went to Atlanta to attend the funeral of his grandmother.
Favors finished 0-for-5 from the field and with 1 point.
"I thought he was a big presence on the defensive side," Corbin said. "He missed his shots, but you know what, his effort was great. And I thought defensively he did some good things. His scoring will come, I'm not worried about that."
Jazz 97, Thunder 81
R Mo Williams scores 15 points to lead Utah.
• The Jazz unveiled a faster, more dynamic offense, despite shooting 42 percent from the field.
Jazz at L.A. Lakers
P At the Staples Center
Tip-off • 8:30 p.m. MDT
TV • None
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 1-1, Lakers 0-2
About the Jazz • They split the 2011-12 season series with the Lakers, 2-2. ... They play their next four preseason games against the Lakers and Clippers, including three in Los Angeles. ... Since 2010, they have won 10 of 12 games in the preseason. ... F Paul Millsap won't play.
About the Lakers • They have lost their first two preseason games to Golden State (110-83) and Portland (93-75). ... Against the Trail Blazers, G Kobe Bryant and C Dwight Howard did not play. G Steve Nash finished with 13 points and four assists in 25 minutes.