Thunder top Jazz to end 5-game skid
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Aaron Wiggins scored 27 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz 130-103 on Friday night to snap a five-game losing streak.
The Thunder hadn't won since Feb. 15 — their final game before the All-Star break. They never trailed in this one.
“It feels good,” Wiggins said. “We felt like we had hit a wall coming off All-Star break. He had a couple losses in a row. Some of them were at the tip of our hands where we should have pulled through and won.
"Tonight, it was all about just trying to make sure that we stayed locked in on the way that we played, stayed true to what we do.”
Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, an All-Star who averages 31 points, missed his fourth straight game. He was out due to health and safety protocols and an abdominal strain.
The Thunder made up for his absence with balance. Jalen Williams scored 20 points, Lu Dort had 19 and Josh Giddey added 18 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.
“They were just ready to play," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. "I think they’ve been ready to play in these other games. Shots went in and got us out to a lead, and that helped us.”
Wiggins, a reserve guard, made 12 of 16 field goals, with 11 coming inside the 3-point line. Making shots in close with 7-foot-1 Walker Kessler, the 7-foot Markkanen and 6-11 Kelly Olynyk defending for the Jazz.
“We didn’t want to try to finish over them," Wiggins said. "So we tried to find other ways to just, you know, get their bigs shifted and kind of move so that we could get other looks around the rim. And we did a really good job just being patient, moving the ball and trying to find better looks.”
Oklahoma City attempted 104 shots to Utah's 78, in part because the Jazz committed 26 turnovers.
“Obviously, the story of the game was 26 turnovers," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "You could almost end commentary about the game there.”
The Thunder played a role in creating some of the miscues.
“I’m sure they’re not happy about that," Daigneault said. "Some of them were probably unforced errors on their part. But at the end of the day, that’s why we want to be a team that makes multiple efforts after an initial help, because it forces teams to use multiple passes and to play deeper in the shot clock. It allows them more time to make a mistake.”
Lauri Markkanen had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz.
The Thunder made 13 3s in the first half to take a 67-52 lead at the break. Isaiah Joe hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points. Giddey had 10 points and nine assists in the first half.
The Thunder poured it on early in the second half. Williams' steal and two-handed jam put Oklahoma City up 74-56 and forced Utah to call timeout. The game was never close again.
Daigneault gave his players credit for remaining focused.
“If you just kind of hang in there long enough, then you give yourself the opportunity for things to turn,” he said. “But if you allow the circumstances to beat you down, then things won’t turn.”
Jazz: Outscored the Thunder 18-9 on free throws. ... F Simone Fontecchio scored 16 points, two short of his season high. ... Kessler had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Thunder: The team announced it expects to be without F Kenrich Williams for the rest of the season with a wrist injury. He averaged 8.0 points and 4.9 rebounds. ... Signed G Jared Butler to a two-way contract on Friday. He played three minutes in the fourth quarter.
The teams meet again on Sunday.
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