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Jazz Beat Thunder 94-89 in Enes Kanter’s Return to Salt Lake

It was a big night for the Utah Jazz when the Oklahoma City Thunder came into town. The biggest news coming into the night was the passing of legendary announcer Hot Rod Hundley. Hot Rod called 3051 games for the Jazz over 35 years. His broadcasting style unique, and brought life to every play. You would be hard pressed to find a Jazz fan that didn’t think they could do a spot-on Hot Rod impression. He will be missed. Beside wanting to honor Hot Rod with a win, the Jazz also had added motivation with Enes Kanter coming back into town. Earlier in the day he blasted the Jazz for harboring an unprofessional atmosphere, and said the only thing he missed about Utah were the mountains. The Jazz have been on a 4-game losing streak since their hot run of form since the Kanter-trade at the All-Star break. OKC has managed to stay in the playoff picture despite Kevin Durant being shut down for the rest of the season. The main reason for the Thunder’s success has been Russell Westbrook, who has been looking like an MVP candidate. The Jazz would have their hands full trying to get revenge on Kanter and honor Hot Rod.

 

The Thunder came out hot, putting the Jazz in an early hole. However, Utah battled back to close the gap to 3 with 6 minutes left. At that point it was 13-10. The crowd was quick to voice their displeasure with Kanter every time he touched the ball. His player introduction got him a boo similar to what you might expect for Derek Fisher. The boos didn’t bother Kanter. Despite picking up 2 early fouls, he had 6 points and 3 rebounds when he went to the bench with just over 4 minutes left in the quarter. With 3:06 left in the first the Jazz trailed 24-15. Westbrook led the Thunder with 11 pts and 4 ast at that point. After such a long stretch of defensive dominance it looked like the Jazz were finally running out of steam. The offensive explosion continued for OKC through the rest of the quarter. The score was 32-21 after one.

 

The 2nd quarter didn’t start well for the Jazz. OKC started things off with a 5-point run. A missed Gobert dunk led to free throws that finally stopped the bleeding for the Jazz. Shortly after that Utah profited from a stop when Rodney Hood knocked down a three, bringing it to 37-26 with just under 10 minutes left in the quarter. With 8:48 left in the half Trey Burke knocked down a three that made it 38-29. Kanter made his way back into the game with 8:00 minutes left in the half and the crowd hadn’t forgotten their hatred for him. It seemed like the players also had a little extra aggression for Enes. He went to the free throw line and his miss on the front end sparked the biggest cheer of the night. The Jazz kept fighting and closed it to 7 with 5:25 left. At that point the score was 42-35. OKC was shooting 59% but the Jazz were able to stay in it by forcing turnovers. With 4:31 left in the half OKC had already recorded 10. However, Utah was only shooting 38%. But the Jazz stayed on OKC and forced them into another turnover. With 2:58 left in the half they had cut the Thunder lead to 5, 46-41. The Jazz continued their run after another OKC turnover that led to a Booker and-1, and an OKC technical. Booker completed the 3 point play after Hayward hit the technical free throw, bringing it to 46-45 with 2 minutes to play in the half. With just over 1 minute left in the half former Jazz legend Steve Novak fouled Gordon Hayward, and the free throws tied it at 47. The tie was short lived, as Kanter hit a hook shot over Rudy Gobert to put OKC back on top. The Jazz held OKC to 17 points in the second quarter and scored 26 of their own, making it 49-47 at halftime.

 

The first half was a tale of two quarters. OKC couldn’t miss in the first, but 15 turnovers, 9 coming in the second quarter kept the Jazz in it. OKC finished the half shooting 61%. Utah found its way back to 40%. Enes Kanter had 12 pts and 6 rbs for OKC and Westbrook finished the half with 15 pts, 6 ast, and 3rbs. For the Jazz Hayward had 7 pts on 1/6 shooting, but 5/7 from the free throw line. Trey Burke went for 11 pts on 3/9 shooting. Gobert finished the half with 7 rbs.

 

Utah got on the board first in the second half with a 3 by Dante Exum. The pace in the early part of the 3rd quarter favored the Jazz style of play. Utah was able to force OKC into shooting long jumpers and the Jazz moved the ball well on offense. With 8:10 left in the game Rudy Gobert went to the line and split a pair of free throws, extending the Jazz lead to 55-51. After a rough sequence of play Russell Westbrook was called for a foul and Enes Kanter got a technical, which sparked the ESA crowd. OKC continued turning the ball over, getting their 17th with 6:10 left in the 3rd. At that point the score was 55-57 in favor of the Jazz. After a timeout Trevor Booker hit a 3 that gave the Jazz a 5 point lead, Gobert got a block which led to a Hayward layup giving the Jazz the 62-55 lead. On the next OKC possession Russell Westbrook heaved a 3 pointer ten feet over the rim. Utah’s offense came alive once again and they opened up a 7-point lead, 66-59 with 3:08 left in the 3rd. The 19th Thunder turnover of the night led to a fast break dunk by Hayward, giving him his 14th point. As the quarter went along the Jazz kept taking it to the Thunder. With just over a minute left Joe Ingles had Kanter in isolation and hit a pull-up jumper right in his eye. The Jazz finished the quarter strong and led it by 10, 66-76.

 

The turnover problems continued for OKC. They had one right out of the gate but the Jazz were unable to score. Utah scored on the next possession, but Westbrook answered with a three. With 11 minutes left it was 69-78 for the Jazz. Gobert cleaned up a missed shot to build the Jazz lead. On the other end he blocked Westbrook and a couple possessions later a Trey Burke jump shot forced OKC to call a timeout. With 8:44 left in the 4th the Jazz led 82-69. OKC started pulling back after a rough stretch. With 7 minutes left they had cut the Jazz lead to 9, 73-82. Westbrook entered MVP mode and picked up his 24th points of the game on a layup through traffic bringing the Thunder to within 7. After the Jazz timeout Booker hit a layup but Westbrook answered with one of his own. Gordon Hayward was called for an offensive foul after getting tangled up with Kanter. He went back on drew the foul against Kanter on the next possession. That foul was Kanter’s 5th. Hayward hit both free throws to give the Jazz an 86-79 lead with 4 and a half minutes to go. A possession later Gobert missed on a dunk which led to an OKC scoring possession. However, Chris Johnson hit a huge three and then Kanter stepped over the line on the inbounds pass, creating another turnover for OKC. With 2:30 left the Jazz led 89-81. Burke missed a three and then the Jazz were called for a loose ball foul. Russell Westbrook hit both free throws, bringing the score to 83-89 Jazz with just over 2 minutes left. Oklahoma City had chances at the free throw line but couldn’t convert many of them down the stretch. The Jazz had an 86-91 lead with just over a minute to go. Utah failed to convert on their next possession and the Thunder took control with 35.2 left and called a timeout. Westbrook went right down and hit a three to cut it to two with 32 seconds left. On the other end Hayward missed a pull up in the lane but Rudy was fouled cleaning it up. After hitting every square inch of the rim Rudy’s first free throw fell. The second one wasn’t quite as dramatic, and it fell right away. With 8.7 seconds left the Jazz led 89-93. Westbrook missed on a three and Booker was fouled on the rebound. He hit the first free throw but missed the second and Hayward intercepted the desperation pass as time expired. The Jazz held on to win 94-89.

 

This was a huge win for the Jazz. After losing 4 straight, it had to be big for their confidence to beat a playoff team. It was especially gratifying to get the win against Enes Kanter. None of the Jazz players were shy about voicing their opinions on Enes’ remarks. The Jazz showed a lot of fight in order to come back from such a poor start. Towards the end of the game the atmosphere felt like old Delta Center crowds. The spirit of Hot Rod was alive and well in this old school victory for the Utah Jazz. They were able to hold on to a lead and beat a team with a great scorer in Russell Westbrook. The Jazz will look to continue rebuilding their mojo on Monday night against the Timberwolves.

 

Quin Snyder Postgame: http://espn700sports.com/?p=62456

 

Trey Burke Postgame: http://espn700sports.com/?p=62474

22 pts, 6 rbs, 4 ast

 

Gordon Hayward Postgame: http://espn700sports.com/?p=62477

17 pts, 5 rbs, 5 ast

 

Rudy Gobert Postgame: http://espn700sports.com/?p=62480

13 pts, 15 rbs, 4 blk, 3 stl

 

Trevor Booker Postgame: http://espn700sports.com/?p=62483

12 pts, 3 rbs

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