The Jazz were not the ones expecting to be overpowered and outplayed by a struggling Thunder team. While there are still plenty of question marks for Oklahoma City, there was no doubt whether who won and who lost Tuesday night.
Here's our report card of last night's contest:
A - Thunder's physicality
Having tough guys on a team is one thing. However, tough guys that can play at a high level are hard to come by. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka flexed their muscles in Salt Lake and helped OKC overpower Utah. Westbrook had no fear attacking the rim with Mo Williams defending him at the point. Kevin Durant was not bothered by an early injury by continuing to play his style of basketball. And Serge Ibaka could not be stopped in the paint, grabbing boards, swatting shots, you name it. The Thunder can be a fast-paced, up-tempo team, but they can just as easily get down and dirty with a team like the Jazz.
B - Thabo Sefolosha
It ceases to amaze me who will step up night in and night out. Some guys just catch fire every now and then, and Thabo did that hitting 4-8 from the perimeter and doing a phenomenal job of keeping Utah at arm's distance. The Thunder were able to draw Utah off the ball and keep them waiting for Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to wreak havoc. However, all it did was set up Thabo for wide open three's and earn himself 12 points on a night where the Thunder shot 42% from the perimeter.
C - Ball handling
Not to say the Thunder, or the Jazz for that matter, did not execute some great ball movement throughout the night, but there were some really sloppy sequences. Scott Brooks noted before the game the Thunder have to cut down on turnovers, and while it was Utah gift-wrapping possessions to the Thunder for most of the night, OKC had their fair share of sloppy plays. As up-tempo as the team would love to be, the Thunder can not go 180 MPH for 48 minutes. Oklahoma City wastes way too many fast break opportunities giving up the ball, and you can not miss out on those in the postseason.
D - Anti-climatic Ending
This is not necessarily a bad thing. The Utah Jazz had the opportunity to make this really interesting, but Russell Westbrook was ready to get out of Salt Lake City apparently. No. 0 was able to record a late steal and finish a breakaway dunk to end any hope for a miraculous comeback. This game was poised to be a fun, physical battle. I was half-hoping it would come down to a last second shot, because let's be honest, the Thunder are in good position in the one or two spot. However, losing out on the top spot is not devastating for two reasons: a) Oklahoma City knows they can win on the road and steal back home court, and b) If they get to the Finals, they will not have home court regardless, so there really isn't much to fret over.
F - Utah's post presence
Missing Enes Kanter hurt Utah's depth, but their post game just was not there tonight. Paul Millsap was completely shut down, though, Al Jefferson did post a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Regardless, Utah did not have a lot of luck in the paint as the Thunder did a great job of forcing them to kick out and take jump shots. Every now and then the Jazz would hit, and you're going to get that with guys like Randy Foye every-so-often, but Utah could not dominate on the inside and ultimately, they could've won had they been able to outmuscle a strong defensive effort led by Ibaka. If Oklahoma City-Utah still does happen in the first round, I'm definitely excited to see how the Jazz adjust.