Russell Westbrook, Paul George lead Thunder past Jazz, 103-89

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha (22) defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerami Grant (9) as the Utah Jazz host the Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City, Saturday December 23, 2017.

The Jazz had to pick their poison.

Four days ago, the Thunder bullied them in a 107-79 loss with energy and physicality. The Jazz were tougher on Saturday night. But they still weren’t better.

Russell Westbrook had his 11th triple-double of the season, Paul George poured in 26 points, and the three-headed monster of Oklahoma City (18-15) bested the Jazz (15-19) for the third straight time, 103-89.

Tired legs weren’t the chief issue this time: Making shots was. The Thunder made it rain from deep, hitting 12 of 29. The Jazz were mired at 23 percent beyond the arc, wasting a 29-point outburst from rookie Donovan Mitchell as he returned from a bruised toe.

Utah hung around for most of the game, letting the Thunder truly drift out of reach only in the fourth quarter. But instead of tying the season series as the Jazz hoped, they only showed how far they have to go against a rapidly improving Western contender.

Any poison they have to pick is still a killer.

“I didn’t feel like we executed offensively,” coach Quin Snyder said. “When you play a team that’s as long and athletic defensively [as the Thunder], you need each other even more. You need to execute with even more force, and we weren’t able to do that.”

Before the game, Snyder compared the Jazz-Thunder to a playoff series. The teams have met four times already, three of them in the last three weeks alone. But as far as teams vying for the playoffs, the franchises are going in opposite directions at the moment: The Thunder have surged with 10 wins in their last 13 games, while the Jazz linger outside the top eight teams in the Western Conference by two-and-a-half games.

If Saturday’s game showed the Thunder’s flexibility, it also showed the Jazz’s lack thereof. Normally one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, Utah hit only six buckets from deep — tied for the second-fewest of the season in a game. Even while Mitchell attacked the paint with fury (12-for-16 shooting), much of the offense was hamstrung when Jazz shooters could not stretch the floor.

Added to some of the turnover struggles the team suffered from Wednesday — nine in the first half — there was no winning formula for the Jazz.

“I thought they got good shots, and that happens sometimes: You just don’t make shots,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I think that we did play good defense. I think that probably the truth and reality lies somewhere in between.”

Outside of Mitchell, the most any of his teammates put up was Thabo Sefolosha’s hard-fought 11. The veteran defender subbed in early in the second half to guard Carmelo Anthony, and he finished as one of only two Jazzmen with a positive plus-minus rating.

Two other normally reliable shooters were at the crux of what went wrong for Utah in the game offensively.

Guarded by George and Andre Roberson, Rodney Hood’s follow-up to a 29-point outburst against the Spurs was his first single-digit scoring game since Nov. 1 — he missed his first seven shots on the way to nine points on 3-for-14 shooting. Joe Ingles also struggled to find his stroke: While he found some looks from his cozy corner spot, he was only 1 for 5 from deep for seven points.

By contrast, Oklahoma City found a rhythm from deep in the second half, hitting nine after intermission. During one defining stretch in the third quarter, Westbrook and George combined to hit three straight 3-pointers, turning a three-point game into a double-digit lead.

It wasn’t the same kind of game as Wednesday. But it was the same result.

“I thought we were aggressive, but they’ve got some good players over there,” Derrick Favors said. “No matter what adjustments you make, those guys are good.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio (3) shoots over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony (7) as the Utah Jazz host the Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City, Saturday December 23, 2017.