Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/1/12
OKLAHOMA CITY -- There have been many games this season that Oklahoma City has won with its offense. With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin in the lineup, it can always put up points. But for the third straight game, the Thunder showed they can rely on their defense when they want to as Oklahoma City defeated Utah 106-94 Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Jazz committed 18 turnovers against an aggressive Oklahoma City defense, which the Thunder turned into 25 points. "We were just physical right when they cross the half court line," Oklahoma City's Kevin Martin said. "You know with Utah you have to get ready for a physical game. And they try and beat you up on the boards. We just had to be ready." Despite the loss, Utah coach Tyrone Corbin liked what he saw from his team. Missing two starters, he watched as his squad fought its way back late and make a game of it. "We fought and showed a lot of character as we have all year," Corbin said. "We're going to fight against guys and give ourselves a chance to win as well as get back into ballgames when we don't play our best." After trailing by as many as 18 points, Utah stormed back in the fourth and trimmed Oklahoma City's lead down to four with 7:40 left in the game. It had momentum squarely on its side. "We just clicked," Utah's Al Jefferson said. "We started attacking and got rebounds. We kept them on their toes. We cut it to four." But a pair of hustle steals on the same play by Westbrook led to a Durant dunk. Believing Westbrook had fouled Earl Watson twice, Corbin was called for a technical when he argued with an official. Durant hit the free throw and Oklahoma City pushed its lead back to 10. Down the stretch, whenever the Jazz attempted to cut the Thunder's lead down to single digits, Oklahoma City found a way to repel them. Whether it was Serge Ibaka or Durant coming up with a block, a steal from Westbrook or a few key offensive rebounds out of Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder made defensive stops when needed. "The key was just keeping our game plan and attacking on the offensive end," Martin said. "During that time, they were getting some easy fastbreak points so we just had to get back." Six players scored in double figures for Utah. Jefferson led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Enis Kanter came off the bench to chip in 15 points. It was the type of performance the Jazz had been waiting on from their second-year player from Turkey. "I saw the big Turkey that I've been looking for since the season started," Jefferson said of Kanter. "I saw the big Turkey that I saw in the preseason. He stepped up big tonight. With (Derrick) Favors down, he's going to have to step up and get some big minutes." Durant had a game high 24 points to go along with four blocks. But it was Westbrook who provided the emotion and intensity on both ends of the court when the Thunder went flat. He tallied 21 points, eight assists and seven steals. "He was great like he has been all year," Martin said of Westbrook. "He has the keys to our car. He's the point guard. We are following him and tonight was a great example of him getting everybody involved; and just having the willpower to lead us to victory." In his return back to action, Mo Williams didn't waste any time finding his shot. Despite not playing for a week, he took six shots and scored seven points in the first quarter. However, the Thunder still held a 22-20 advantage. Oklahoma City's defense began to assert itself in the second period. Thabo Sefolosha, Westbrook and Eric Maynor forced Utah's backcourt into numerous turnovers It was the Thunder's ability to turn the turnovers into fastbreak points that allowed it to increase its lead to 54-42 at halftime. "We got some of the quickest players in the league on the wing and that's how we have to play," Brooks said. "Get deflections, get steals, get defensive stops. That's what we talk about. That's what we work on every day. We want them to reward themselves with good work on the defensive end turn to easy buckets on offense." NOTES: After missing the past week with a sprained right foot, point guard Mo Williams returned to the lineup. Before the injury he was averaging 13.8 and was shooting 41 percent from field. "It gives us some pace," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He's the speed guy that's going to give us the pace in the open court." ... As Mo Williams made his return, Marvin Williams sat out Friday's game because of concussion symptoms. Utah's starting small forward crashed his head on the floor on Wednesday during the third quarter in New Orleans. DeMarre Carroll got the start. Williams is not expected to be available to play Saturday in Houston. ... Favors strained his right arch in the first half and did not return to the game ... Oklahoma City is the only team that has had the same starting five for every game this season. Through 17 games Perkins, Ibaka, Durant, Westbrook and Sefolosha have taken the floor every night for the opening tap. ... Through the first month of the season, the Thunder are the top scoring team in the NBA at 105.4 points per game. They topped the century mark 11 times in the month and were 10-1 in those games. ... When asked about the controversy surrounding San Antonio coach Greg Popovich sending his players home Thursday before a game, Thunder coach Scott Brooks tried to say he didn't have time to really think about what he would do in the same situation. But when pressed, he seemed to fall on the Popovich's side. "We do what is best for our team," "Brooks said. "That's where all my thoughts are everyday. In practice, in games, everything. But with the league, you have to respect their decisions."
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