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Thunder 101, Jazz 98

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- Kevin Durant scored 42 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 101-98 victory over the Utah Jazz in the teams' 2013-14 season-opener Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Durant only shot 9-for-24 from the field, but nailed 22 of 24 free throws, including a pair with 6.8 seconds remaining in the win. Thabo Sefolosha and Reggie Jackson each added 14 points as the Thunder (1-0) won without injured star point guard Russell Westbrook.

Gordon Hayward had a chance to force overtime, but his 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining bounced off the rim.

Sefolosha hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer before halftime, helping Oklahoma City go into the visiting locker room ahead 57-48 thanks to a seven-point run.

The Thunder opened up a 15-point lead in the third quarter and seemed to be cruising to an easy win.

This new look Jazz, who no longer feature old standbys Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, didn't let them escape without a fight.

Guard Alec Burks came off the bench to lead the Jazz (0-1) with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Power forward Derrick Favors, Millsap's replacement, scored 15 points with nine rebounds and five assists in his first game since signing a four-year extension worth $47.7 million.

Third-year pro Enes Kanter, the Jazz's starting center, totaled 14 points with 10 rebounds. And offseason acquisition Richard Jefferson scored 10 points in his new starting role in Utah.

Hayward, Utah's only returning starter, struggled from the field, going 4-for-13, but still managed to contribute 12 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Burks got the home crowd back into the game with a three-point play that helped Utah turn OKC's 15-point lead into an 86-80 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

The Jazz weren't finished.

Mike Harris, an NBA journeyman who survived the final cut in Utah this preseason, hit three free throws after being fouled beyond the arc by Durant. The 6-foot-6 reserve forward, getting minutes because of Utah's injury situation, cut the Thunder's lead to 87-85 with a dunk midway through the fourth.

In his Jazz debut, Harris scored 13 points with four rebounds before fouling out.

Jackson seemed to turn the tide back in the Thunder's favor with a 3-pointer, but Harris and Hayward helped Utah get within two with consecutive dunks midway through the fourth.

In the end, it was simply too much Durant for the Jazz to handle. The superstar scored 15 points in the fourth quarter.

NOTES: Westbrook could return sooner than expected, according to a Yahoo Sports report. Despite having a second surgery on his right knee earlier this month, the point guard is ahead of schedule and might return within two weeks. ... Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet missed the season-opener after being suspended one game for headbutting New Orleans' Greg Stiemsma in the preaseason. ... Utah began the NBA season with just 10 available players. Rookie Trey Burke (finger), Marvin Williams (Achilles heel), Brandon Rush (knee), Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff) and Andris Biedrins are all sidelined with injuries. Burke, the 2013 NCAA player of the year, will be evaluated in early November after having surgery on his fractured right index finger two weeks ago.
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