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Thunder manhandle out-of-sync Jazz

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- For the past month, every time the Utah Jazz have taken the court, they've been fighting for their playoff lives. They have no room for error.

The Jazz failed to show that urgency when they took the court Wednesday. Utah played as if the season were over during a 110-87 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"Oklahoma City is a good team, and they beat us tonight," Utah's Gordon Hayward said. "We got embarrassed, and we have to be able to compete in these games. Coming down to three or four weeks left in the season, trying to get into the playoffs, we can't come out with efforts like this."

With the Los Angeles Lakers also losing Wednesday, Utah (33-32) remains a half-game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City (48-17) didn't play up to its normal standards, either. Following a thrashing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, Thunder coach Scott Brooks hoped to see a better offensive showing. The mission was partially accomplished. Oklahoma City shot 53.6 percent from the field but racked up 25 turnovers.

The Thunder's defense was good enough to produce the blowout victory, leaving Oklahoma City one game behind San Antonio for the best record in the conference.

"Of course, after the loss, it was important to try and bounce back," Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant said. "This team beat us pretty badly up in Utah, so we wanted to come out and send a message. And we did that."

Durant almost had a dubious triple-double, posting 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight turnovers. It was the second straight game in which he shot 7-for-13 from the field.

Russell Westbrook added 19 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five turnovers. Kevin Martin came off the bench to score 15 for the Thunder.

No Utah starter reached double figures in points, rebounds or assists. Gordon Hayward paced the team with 20 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Al Jefferson had eight points and seven rebounds.

"That's very concerning," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Not just not hitting double figures, it's the way we played. I thought they had us on the perimeter all game long. We just weren't focused, and the effort wasn't there."

Led by Randy Foye, the Jazz jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first quarter. The Thunder had no energy, and Utah used the opportunity to beat them on the board and down the court.

After Brooks called a timeout, Oklahoma City went on a 23-7 run to end the first quarter. The Thunder led 29-19 heading into the second period.

Durant started out cold from the field with a 1-for-4 shooting performance. Several of his shots came when he drove into the paint and collided with Utah's big men. However, the league leader in free-throw makes and percentage didn't get the foul calls. He also accounted for six turnovers in the first half.

As bad as Durant looked, the entire Jazz lineup was off its game. Utah shot 22.7 percent in the first two quarters and trailed 50-28 at halftime. The Thunder held the Jazz to nine points in the second quarter, a record for the fewest points allowed in a quarter in the Oklahoma City era.

The Thunder made a concerted effort to get the ball to Durant in the third quarter, and he went on the attack. He scored nine of the team's first 11 points and gave Oklahoma City a 61-35 lead.

"I was struggling early on, really bad," Durant said. "Was down on myself. My teammates came to my rescue I guess. Russell was the main guy. I really appreciate him doing that. He could have just as easily let me fall to the wayside. He kept me involved, kept my spirits up. That is what you need a point guard to do."

The only real spirit the Jazz showed the entire night took place when DeMarre Carroll gave Durant a little hip check as the two crossed half-court midway through the third. As the flagrant foul was being called, Westbrook got into Carroll's face and landed a well-placed forearm into his chest.

The players had to be separated, and Durant had to calm Westbrook down.

"It wasn't a dirty foul," Carroll said. "He had just hit six points. I was trying to stop him. That's what defensive people do. You don't let him keep getting a rhythm. I fouled him, but I don't think it was a flagrant foul. I guess cause the crowd got into it, they had to call a flagrant."

The two teams combined for five technical fouls.

NOTES: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Oklahoma City is on pace to become the second team in NBA history to have a scoring champion not take the most shots on his team. Westbrook leads the Thunder with 18.8 attempts per game, while NBA scoring leader Durant is averaging 17.9. The only team to accomplish the feat was the 1954-55 Philadelphia Warriors. ... Utah's Paul Milsap returned to the starting lineup after sitting out Monday with a bruised right quad and patella. He had seven points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. ... Coming down the stretch of the regular season, Utah is in a three-way fight for the final two Western Conference playoff spots with the Lakers and the Houston Rockets. However, Corbin doesn't want his team to worry about the standings. "We can't afford to put too much energy in it as a team," Corbin said. "We will watch it as coaches. I want them to concentrate on who we are, what we need to do to continue to get better. And how we have to play every night out to stay in the race."
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