SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Once again, it was Russell Westbrook against Jazz fans, and unlike the first round of the NBA playoffs a year ago, this time Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder walked off the floor of Vivint Smart Home Arena winners.
Westbrook had 23 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, while Dennis Schroder scored 24 points, as the Thunder beat the Utah Jazz 98-89 on Monday night to sweep the season series, 4-0.
Westbrook got into a heated exchange with some Jazz fans in the first half. Video of the incident caught Westbrook saying to a fan he would “f—” him up and do the same to his wife. “I promise you,” Westbrook says in the exchange. “You think I’m playing. I swear to God. I swear to God. I’ll f— you up; you and your wife. I’ll f— you up.”
After the game, Westbrook told reporters a fan “told me to ‘Get down on my knees like you used to.'”
Westbrook further said in his postgame comments that he never has and never would get physically violent with a women but that he was so offended he would take the same actions and say the same thing if he had it to do over again.
“But once he said the comment, and his wife repeated the same thing as well, that’s kind of how that started,” Westbrook said.
The Jazz said they were investigating the incident and confirmed the issuance of the warning cards.
“Players and fans have a shared responsibility to create a safe and respectful environment,” the Jazz said in a statement. “If it is determined that any fans violated the NBA Code of Conduct, appropriate action will be taken.”
Five Jazz fans were issued warning cards by security and were allowed to remain in their seats.
As for the game, Paul George, who had averaged 39 points in the first three meetings against the Jazz, was held to 14 points, but the Jazz offense struggled, shooting just 36 percent from the field.
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 25 points, while Royce O’Neale added 17. Rudy Gobert chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds.
“They have a bunch of weapons,” Mitchell said. “Denis Schroder goes off for what, 24? It’s tough, we followed the game plan, we got the ball out of Paul’s hands, but unfortunately another guy got hot.”
“We had great shots, shots we usually make,” O’Neale said. “Some nights they don’t fall, so our defense has to be more aggressive. We played well on defense, but tough shots didn’t fall.
Behind Schroder and Westbrook, the Thunder took a 50-37 halftime lead, and stretched the margin to 17 in the third quarter before the Jazz made a run.
Utah trimmed the Thunder lead to 60-55 late in the third quarter when Mitchell scored a finger roll layup. Oklahoma City pulled away a second time and took its largest lead at 80-63 on a 3-pointer from Abdel Nader early in the fourth quarter.
The Jazz rallied one more time in the fourth, cutting the deficit to 89-83 on a pair of 3-pointers from O’Neale. But Westbrook took over and scored back-to-back baskets as part of a 9-1 run that put the Thunder up 98-84 with 1:32 remaining.
“We really worked our tails off defensively, particularly in the half court,” said head coach Quin Snyder. “But when we’re not able to convert, it puts more pressure on our defense.”
The Jazz made just 13 of 43 three-pointers, and committed 10 of their 13 turnovers in the first half.
Jazz point guard Dante Exum returned to action after missing 25 games with a left ankle sprain and bone bruise. Exum was scoreless with three assists in 15 minutes of action.
Utah falls back to the 8th seed in the Western Conference with a record of 37-29, and will next play at Phoenix Wednesday night.