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Defense, the key victory of Thunder is reserved



Sometimes things change when you least expect it.

I do not know if the Thunder's 100-94 victory over Utah on Tuesday night means anything in the grand scheme of this NBA season. The odds are not.

But you never know. And if indeed the rally of the Thunder from a deficit of 17 points indicates that OKC is coming out of its disconcerting funk, it should be noted that it started with defense.

And it started with reservations in its majority. Paul George and Andre Roberson came out at a trot with Patrick Patterson, Raymond Felton and Jerami Grant. And that five put the shackles on the Jazz.

For the next 4 and a half minutes, Utah scored just two points. Roberson and George played crazy defense, contesting every pass and every shot.

After Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams and Carmelo Anthony joined Roberson and George on the ground, the suffocating defense continued.

The Jazz finished with just 1

4 fourth-quarter of points, the offensive Thunder found a change and OKC suddenly not only had a three-game losing streak, but a return victory to make up for one of those absurd early-season draws .

Utah coach Quin Snyder had warned that he feared Thunder.

"The evolution of a team, it is a mistake to judge any team at this time," Snyder said before the game.

"There are so many things that influence him, whether it's the strength of the schedule, the guys acclimatize to each other … you look at the Thunder's point differential, it's really, really good, they're playing to the rhythm of a team 50 victories, that's a better predictor than the record. "

Sorry, but the Thunder fans do not want to hear about the point differential. They know everything about the points differential, since in the Thunder they were on the low side of the points 12 times in 22 games before Tuesday night.

And this game looked like a loser, too, with a more horrible offensive. The Thunder had 39 points in the first half, giving OKC 75 in the last four quarters, counting the ridiculous 36 scored against the San Antonio varsity team in the second half of a win on Sunday night.

In the first half, the Thunder offense small off Westbrook by going on command or running a two man game with Adams. Carmelo was in a funk. Paul George seemed lost, with twice as many turnovers (six) than points (three). Westbrook's frustration, notably in the rebound of recent games, seemed to grow by possession. He got a technical foul in the third quarter after a whistle went against him.

But after Utah took a 72-55 lead midway through the third quarter, the Thunder offense came to life. OKC made 17 of 29 shots for the rest of the way. Westbrook and Adams kept the Thunder afloat in the third quarter – they combined to score in five consecutive possessions after Utah took that 17-point lead – and then the rest of the troops helped in the fourth quarter.

George had 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. Carmelo made four consecutive shots during a spree in which the Thunder scored on 11 of their last 12 possessions.

Adams was tremendous, 20 points in 9 of 10 shots, and if Carmelo and George can start contributing suddenly, the Thunder has four great scorers.

"I think you look at our record, it's what it is now," Donovan said. "The most important thing for us is that 82 games are a lot of games, I just want to see us play more and more the way we need to play with such a new team."

"Many times it's not a soft upward trend. It's over, it's down. "

The Thunder was down for Tuesday night, then it's over, only time will tell if it stays active.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be contacted at 405-760-8080 or btramel@oklahoman.com You can be heard Monday through Friday from 4: 40-5: 20 pm on The Sports Animal radio network, which includes FM-98.1 You can also view their personality page at newsok.com /berrytramel.


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