Oklahoma City • Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio picked off a Russell Westbrook pass against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
With All-Star forward Paul George stalking him in transition for the chasedown block, Rubio pump-faked at the basket. George flew into the crowd, leaving Rubio wide open under the basket for the easiest layup he’ll have all season.
He missed. By a lot.
With a sellout crowd at Chesapeake Arena enjoying a humorous moment at Rubio’s expense, that play served as a metaphor for Utah’s 107-79 blowout at the hands of the Thunder. Rubio’s layup had no chance, and neither did the Jazz.
“We started the game like we didn’t really believe we could win,” Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha said. “It was one of those nights. At the same time, we can’t say that every time we get blown out. I think it’s one of those games we have to look back on and see what we didn’t do right. I think the mindset wasn’t right at the start of the game.”
On the final night of a six-game road trip, the Jazz looked exhausted. There was no life, no energy. Utah’s jumpers hit the front of the rim all night, a sure sign of fatigue, and the Jazz simply couldn’t move defensively.
This is what a grueling trip and December schedule has done to the Jazz. Facing five playoff teams and four contenders is a difficult task for anyone — but watching its effect up close is eye-opening.
The Thunder began Wednesday’s game scoring 17 of the first 19 points, and led 25-9 at the end of the first quarter. OKC used a 34-23 third quarter to push the lead to 30 points, which meant plenty of time for Utah two-way player Nate Wolters and rookie center Tony Bradley in the fourth quarter.
OKC guard Russell Westbrook scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out seven assists in 27 stress-free minutes. He went 10 of 13 from the field. Paul George scored 18 points and had a highlight-reel dunk on Derrick Favors. In every way, the Thunder embarrassed the Jazz, in what was one of their best games of the season.
“It’s good that we have another game tomorrow, so we can get this one out of our heads,” Jazz guard Rodney Hood said. “They clicked on all cylinders. We turned the ball over a lot. And we can’t do that, especially when we’re tired, and especially with how good they are in transition.”
Hood — in the starting lineup with Donovan Mitchell out because of a toe contusion — scored a team-high 17 points and went 5 of 11 from the field. Alec Burks finished with 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
But the Jazz shot 35 percent from the field, and went 7 of 31 from 3-point range. They turned the ball over 19 times and surrendered 28 points to the Thunder off those miscues.
“We turned the ball over to start the game,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “When you do that, they’re as good as anyone at converting. We got punched at the beginning of the game, and we weren’t able to bounce back.”
In part because of so many injuries to key players and in part because of the December schedule, which is statistically ranked the most difficult month for any team in the NBA this season, the Jazz (14-18) are digging a hole for themselves. Wednesday night’s loss is the seventh in the past eight games, and Utah is losing ground in the Western Conference playoff race.
With January approaching, there is time for the Jazz to get healthy and recover. But the Jazz are in the midst of their most difficult stretch of the season. And with the San Antonio Spurs visiting Vivint Smart Home Arena on Thursday night, it isn’t getting any easier.
“This has been a tough trip,” Hood said. “It’s about getting healthy and then putting 48 minutes together and winning some games.”