Thunderous third quarter hurts Jazz
It wasn't quite the performance of the Indiana Pacers, when they hit 20 of 21 shots in the third quarter of a recent game against the Denver Nuggets.
But it was still a mighty impressive 12 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Monday night's 115-108 win over the Jazz.
For the game, Kevin Durant and company lit up EnergySolutions Arena with uncommon shooting. But the third quarter was the key: 15-for-21 from the field; three field goals from beyond the arc; a two-point lead stretched to eight; and one Utah Jazz team on the brink of seeing its five-game winning streak abruptly halted.
"It's really tough when you see a team coming out and hitting shots like that," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "You can compensate when one guy's making shots. But you can't play help defense when everyone's hitting shots."
And boy were they hitting shots. Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka. All were on fire coming out of the halftime break. Ibaka went 5-for-5 from the field and scored 10 points in the period. Westbrook, who battled foul trouble in the first half, scored eight in the period and handed out six assists.
Meanwhile, the Jazz looked powerless defensively for those 12 minutes. They couldn't stop dribble penetration. They were scored on in the paint. They surrendered offensive rebounds and didn't force turnovers.
"Anytime they give [Westbrook] help, and he doesn't need much help, he has the ability to get to the basket, and he shot pretty well from the top of the key," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's a terrific player, a dynamic player and he's so lively. He's tough to handle and so is Durant. I thought our guys worked very hard to guard him and he goes to the free-throw line 16 times and doesn't miss that makes a difference."
It proved to be Utah's undoing. The Jazz clearly missed the perimeter defense of Raja Bell, who missed the game due to injury. Had he been healthy, he almost certainly would've tried his hand at slowing Westbrook down.
"We missed him, but you can't worry about a guy who's injured," Kirilenko said. "You have to go with the players that are there. We want Raja back, but we couldn't dwell on him not being there."
Oklahoma City's outburst
• Thunder score 35 points, most of any period in the game
• Thunder hit 15 of 21 shots from the field, 71.4 percent
• Thunder have 10 assists on those 15 made baskets