A lot of people around here are bullish on the Jazz’s future.
On Tuesday night, everyone was.
Especially the Jazz themselves, but also — no bull — the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And the present isn’t without hope, either.
Barreling into EnergySolutions Arena for Game No. 46 was the best team in the West, a true measure of where — and what — the Jazz are right now and an inspiration for where — and what — they one day want to be: a rising, young, legitimate contender.
The Thunder, led by their rotating and rapid-fire armament of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, entered the building with the NBA’s second-best record: 34-11.
Make it 34-12.
The Jazz won their fourth straight game, this time by the count of 97-90, showing a toughness and togetherness among young and old against the Thunder that wasn’t always all that evident not that long ago.
It is now.
"We all like each other," said oldster Jamaal Tinsley, who made 5 of 7 shots for 11 points. "We all pull for each other. There’s no hidden agenda here. Just one agenda — win ball games."
Said youngster Derrick Favors, who scored seven and rebounded nine: "We all want to see and work for each other to succeed."
So they did.
Add in this notice from Westbrook: "The Jazz are a good team. They are going to go a long way, especially with the young guys they have."
For the second consecutive game, the Jazz held one of the NBA’s most explosive scorers to a woeful showing. First Kobe Bryant hit just 3 of 20 shots and committed seven turnovers in a Lakers loss, and then Durant scudded up 22 attempts and made only six, with six turnovers.
"Good things continue to happen when we work hard," said Tyrone Corbin. "These guys understand what it’s going to take to win in this league."
And to beat formidable teams like the Thunder.
Let’s say it the way it is here: Oklahoma City is seen as a kind of optimistic blueprint for the Jazz, loaded as they are with skilled young players. The Jazz’s talent is different than the Thunder’s, having no upstart point guard anywhere near what Westbrook is, and, as promising as Utah’s crowded 21-and-under club seems, no one in that group will ever regularly score like Durant.
But the Jazz’s Fab Four — Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward — are improving as rapidly as their sometimes stubborn coach, Corbin, allows them minutes on the floor. That’s another difference between the two teams.
The Thunder, the league’s best young outfit, have completely turned their fate over to their youngsters. The Jazz have not yet done so.
On the other hand, the 23-year-old Durant turned pro four years ago. Westbrook, who also is 23, has been in the league for three seasons. Harden and Serge Ibaka are both 22.
They are just a tick or two ahead of Favors and Hayward, who are in their second seasons, and rooks Burks and Kanter.Next Page >
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