Oklahoma City happy with narrow win over Utah Jazz
Oklahoma City struggled against the new-look Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, but nobody connected with the Thunder was willing to throw back their 101-98 victory at EnergySolutions Arena.
"It just puts everything into perspective," coach Scott Brooks said. "It's hard to win a game and it's very difficult to win on the road. I thought they fought back and gave themselves a chance to win. [Utah] is going to be a good team. They've got a lot of good young players."
Oklahoma City played without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who is recuperating from knee surgery.
Still, the Thunder opened a 79-64 lead in the third quarter before holding off a late rally by the Jazz.
"I thought our guys battled," Brooks said. "We played much better defensively the last three quarters. I like what we did. We did a lot of good things out there. We also did a lot of things that we can watch tomorrow and get better [doing]."
What was the message to his players as Utah rallied within a point, 90-89, with 4 1/2 minutes remaining?
"Every possession battle, fight claw," Brooks said. "Do whatever it takes to stop your man from scoring. It's the first game. We obviously have room to improve. But I thought we did that pretty well in the second half."
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 42 points. He was 9 for 24 from the field, but finished 22 of 24 from the free-throw line.
"They played hard," Durant said. "Utah is a very good team. They move the ball well. They play inside-out. â¦ We just have to be a lot better. I have to be way better than I was tonight. I have to be better setting the tone for the team."
Veteran point guard Derek Fisher finished with four points all in the final minutes of the first half, when Oklahoma City bumped a 46-45 lead to 57-48.
Like Brooks, Fisher noticed the Jazz's effort against the favored Thunder.
"Every night is its own night, every game is its own game," he said. "Tonight is a perfect example of why you can't predict what's going to happen. That's what is so wonderful about sports. â¦ You have to watch because you don't know what's going to happen. It seemed like we were going to run away with this game, but it ended up being a fantastic game."
In the end, Oklahoma City prevailed despite shooting only 40.7 percent from the field, including 6 for 19 from the 3-point line.
Defensively, however, the Thunder forced 22 turnovers and allowed only 69 points over the final three quarters.
"In the first quarter, they were getting a lot of points in the paint," Brooks said. "I think they had five or six dunks [on] poorly executed defensive plays. But it's something, as a game went on, that we got much better doing."