Oklahoma City • It was a statement more about the condition of these Utah Jazz than a single performance.
Al Jefferson sat at his locker in the visitors’ locker room, spun an earring into his left lobe, and said, “I don’t feel bad at all about this loss.”
There was a time a loss to a division rival, the defending conference champions, would have infuriated the Jazz (9-8), and particularly one of their key leaders. But Jefferson’s candor did as much to illustrate the chasm between the Jazz and the top teams in the Western Conference as what had just transpired on the court.
Minutes earlier on Friday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder (13-4) beat the battered Jazz 106-94 in front of a sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena in a game that — aside from a brief, thrilling Jazz run late in the game — was as thorough a trouncing as the Jazz have experienced all season.
“I think we did a great job against all odds,” Jefferson said. “Kept playing, never gave up.”
With Marvin Williams out with concussion symptoms and Derrick Favors pulled after nine minutes with the arch of his right foot strained, the Jazz, behind a curious collection of players, cut a once-18-point Thunder lead to 88-83 with 7:41 remaining, before the Thunder once again surged. Enes Kanter scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to make things interesting for the Jazz.
One road game remains, Saturday at Houston, before the most brutal stretch of the schedule concludes, but the Jazz wrapped up November a very pedestrian 9-8 through 17 games.
While Jefferson remained optimistic, other Jazz players took the losses harder, including Kanter, who said he was unconcerned with his scoring total.
“We just lost the game,” he said, “and that’s what I’m really sad for.”
Said Paul Millsap: “This one hurts. We played hard. We did a lot of good things out there. Talent-wise they’ve got two players that took over the game in the fourth quarter.”
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 25 points, but it was Russell Westbrook who stole the show. Westbrook wasn’t far away from becoming the fifth player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double, recording 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals.
So, when the Jazz, led by Kanter, threatened in the fourth quarter, it was Westbrook who took over. He recorded back-to-back steals, including one with 7:08 remaining that led to an uncontested dunk for Durant, putting Oklahoma City up 92-83.
“I think that was pivotal,” said backup point guard Earl Watson. “We had a chance to score. I don’t know what the score was, but it would have changed the momentum significantly.”
Coach Tyrone Corbin was called for a technical foul, which further boosted the Thunder, who went on a 13-6 run after the Jazz pulled within five.
“I thought it was a huge play,” Corbin said. “We had the ball, we had a chance to get a possession and get to the basket. I thought he hit our guy and got his hands on the ball, but the referee saw it a different way and we had to deal with it.”
The Jazz trailed just 22-20 at the end of the first quarter, having avoided the slow first start that plagued them in nearly every other game this season. However, led by Kevin Martin, the Thunder pulled away in the second quarter. The first-year Oklahoma City guard, acquired before the season in the James Harden trade, scored nine points in the quarter.
After the Jazz tied the game at 25 on a 3-pointer by Gordon Hayward, who scored 13 points and was among six Jazz players to reach double figures, the Thunder ran off a 10-2 run.
“This is who these guys are,” Corbin said, “they’re going to make some runs.”
R IN SHORT • Enes Kanter scores a season-high 18 points, but the Jazz can’t keep up with the defending Western Conference champions.
KEY MOMENT • Derrick Favors leaves the game in the second quarter with a strained arch in his right foot.
KEY STAT • Russell Westbrook leads Oklahoma City with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals.
Jazz at Rockets
P At the Toyota Center (Houston)
Tipoff • Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Season series • Jazz 1-0
About the Jazz • After Friday’s 106-94 loss at Oklahoma City, the Jazz are 3-9 on the road. ... In his first game back from injury, Mo Williams scored 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting against the Thunder. ... Forward Marvin Williams (concussion symptoms) is doubtful while Derrick Favors (strained right arch) is questionable.
About the Rockets • Former Thunder sixth man James Harden leads the Rockets with 24.5 points per game. ... The Rockets lost at Utah 102-91 on Nov. 19, but have won three of four since. ... Five of Houston’s seven wins have come at home.