OKLAHOMA CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz looked primed to win its seventh straight game and end a 12-game losing streak in Oklahoma City.
Then Russell Westbrook took over.
Westbrook notched his seventh triple-double of the season with 34 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists, as the Thunder outscored the Jazz in the fourth quarter 32-14 to win, 100-94.
”Russell Westbrook, the MVP of the league, got going,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. ”I thought in the third quarter, he gave them a lot of energy and gave them points.”
In the Thunder’s first game against the Jazz back in October, Westbrook scored just six points. Tonight, he looked liked the best player in the league once again.
The Jazz though came out of the gates strong despite being on the back end of a back-to-back. Utah built a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter, thanks to rookie Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 31 points.
But Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams dominated in the final quarter to complete the comeback.
George had 21 points, while Adams scored 20 points and pulled down 9 rebounds.
George scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and Carmelo Anthony added 14 points and eight rebounds. They also opened things up for Adams, and now, teams have been forced to decide whether to focus on Adams or on George and Anthony, two of the league’s most capable scorers.
”The reason why Steven is doing what he’s going is because of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. ”When we’re patient on offense, Steven’s going to get those opportunities. Steven’s not doing really anything different from maybe he’s done in the past.”
Westbrook finished with 34 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds to register his seventh triple-double of the season. Oklahoma City outscored the Jazz 32-14 in the fourth quarter to complete a rally from 17 points down in the third.
Joe Ingles added 16 for the Jazz, while Alec Burks and Thabo Sefolosha each added 11.
In his second game back from a leg injury, Rudy Gobert had just five points and six rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
During the Jazz six-game winning streak, they had scored at least 106 points in each game. But on Tuesday, Utah shot just 43 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers.
The Jazz led 47-39 at halftime, and they opened things up even more early in the third quarter. A driving layup by Alec Burks put the Jazz up 72-55 as the Thunder continued to misfire on open shots.
Westbrook closed out the third quarter strong and helped the Thunder cut Utah’s lead to 80-68 by the end of the period. He scored 11 points in the quarter.
Oklahoma City cut the deficit to six points early in the final period before Westbrook re-entered the game after a brief rest. The Thunder finally took the lead on a layup by Westbrook with about four minutes remaining.
Adams didn’t put up big numbers late in the game, but he made a critical tip-in with 43.2 seconds left to put the Thunder up five.
Burks gave the Jazz a 92-90 lead with an acrobatic three-point play with 2:02 remaining. But the Thunder closed the game on a 10-2 run.
Oklahoma City’s defense – statistically one of the league’s best – tightened up late in the game. Utah shot 30 percent in the fourth quarter.
”(Andre) Roberson’s one of the best defenders in the league, Paul George is one of the best defenders in the league. Russell Westbrook turned it up defensively, and that’s tough,” Snyder said.
The Thunder now have won three straight close games after making a habit of losing them.
”We stayed with it,” Westbrook said. ”Teams are going to make runs. It’s about what you do when you get hit in the mouth. We learned our lesson, and we know that we have to continue to fight, and we did that tonight.”
Utah’s leading scorer Rodney Hood missed his fourth straight game with an injured ankle.
The Jazz (13-12) next host Houston Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.