OKLAHOMA CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Utah’s best chance at getting into the 2023 NBA lottery is their own first round draft pick, and it certainly appears the Jazz are headed in that direction.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 38 points and seven rebounds in his return from a five-game absence and the Oklahoma City Thunder led all the way while beating the Utah Jazz 129-119 on Sunday night.
Utah has now lost three straight games, the last two to Oklahoma City, and currently sit at 31-34, in the 10th seed in the Western Conference.
Jalen Williams added a career-high 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting and Josh Giddey just missed a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Oklahoma City, which beat the Jazz for the second time in three days. The Thunder also won in blowout fashion on Friday, 130-103.
“I was happy with how we played for three quarters of the game,” said Jazz head coach Will Hardy. “But 48 minutes is a long time, and if you put yourselves in a big hole to start, it’s hard to claw your way back.”
Utah trailed by double digits for the final 42 minutes of Sunday’s game. Jordan Clarkson led Utah with 18 points and a career-high 13 assists, but missed all five of his 3-point attempts. The Jazz played without All-Star Lauri Markkanen, who sat out with what the team said was a low-back strain.
Utah made only two of its first 17 field-goal attempts and missed its first nine 3-point shots, allowing Oklahoma City to sprint to a 28-10 lead with 2:44 left in the first quarter. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 13 of his points on 5-of-7 shooting during the quarter.
Kris Dunn, who just signed his second 10-day contract, scored a season-high 17 points for the Jazz.
“Some games are just not going to go your way,” said Dunn, who made 7-of-11 shots. “You’ve got to give credit to OKC. They played well tonight, but we didn’t quit. Each and every game, we go out there and try our best and we play hard. We play the right way and that’s what you can ask out of a group.”
The Thunder led by as many as 24 points in the second quarter and was ahead 70-51 at halftime. An 11-0 run by Utah pulled the Jazz within 88-78 with 4:09 left in the third quarter, but Isaiah Joe made a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired for Oklahoma City and Gilgeous-Alexander followed with two free throws.
The Thunder led 101-84 entering the fourth quarter and Utah came no closer than the final margin.
In addition to being without Markkanen, Utah also was missing Collin Sexton, who has a strained left hamstring. Kris Dunn, who signed a second 10-day contract with the Jazz on Saturday, played 27 minutes and scored a career-high 17 points. Walker Kessler also had 17 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) and added 10 rebounds.
Kelly Olynyk also had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Jazz will continue a six-game road swing on Tuesday at Dallas.