SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Utah Jazz opened a new season with a typical dominant defensive performance.
Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 21 rebounds to lead Utah to a 107-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
Six different players scored in double digits for the Jazz when they opened the season. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points. Jordan Clarkson added 18.
Utah started off a little slow on offense, but never gave up on the defensive end – holding Oklahoma City 37 percent from shots from the field.
“You can’t control whether you’re shooting or not, but you can control the way you play on defense,” Gobert said. “I think if we control what we can control every night and focus on that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18 points and Darius Bazley added 15 to lead the Thunder. Oklahoma City have only led once after scoring the game’s opening basket.
“I thought we had decent possessions there,” said Thunder coach Mark Daigneault. “It’s just a team that it’s hard to get cracked against and rotate. This is why they are such a good defense every year. And you really have to work to get these opportunities.
Things got out of hand quickly for the Thunder after shooting in a basket, 13-11, on a 3-point Luguentz Dort.
Dort’s outside basket proved to be the only field goal in five minutes for Oklahoma City. Utah took advantage of the drought in shooting and opened a double-digit lead late in the first quarter. The Jazz led by up to 11 during the quarter, going up 27-16 on back-to-back baskets from Gobert.
Clarkson kept the Oklahoma City defense on their heels during the second quarter. He scored 10 points during the quarter and his float gave Utah their biggest first-half lead at 43-24.
“We have five guys (from bench) who can start on most other teams in the NBA,” Bogdanovic said. “Our bench is our greatest strength.
The Thunder reduced the deficit to 12 at halftime but didn’t come close. Utah opened the third quarter with a 12-1 run blocked by 3 points from Donovan Mitchell to carve out a 66-43 lead. Mitchell scored 12 of his 16 points during the quarter.
Thunder: Josh Giddey had 10 rebounds, a team record, while Jeremiah Robinson-Earl finished with 10 points off the bench. Both players made their NBA debuts. . The Thunder went from 3 of 26 to 3 points in the first three quarters. They missed 17 consecutive 3-pointers in this stretch.
Jazz: Gobert tallied 11 more rebounds than the next closest player to either team. . Hassan Whiteside racked up 10 rebounds on his jazz debut. . Utah finished with no quick break points.
HAPPY TO SEE YOU AGAIN
Derrick Favors started center for Oklahoma City upon his return to Utah. Favors spent 9 1/2 seasons with Jazz before transferring to Thunder in July. He finished with four points on 2 of 9 shots and nine rebounds on his Oklahoma City debut.
Favors asked to start this specific game for what he described as “selfish personal reasons” and Daigneault honored the request.
Utah honored Favors with a video tribute between Q1 and Q2 and he received a standing ovation from jazz fans. It highlighted an otherwise difficult night for him emotionally where he played against many longtime teammates.
“It was tough,” Favors said. “I just hoped I didn’t get emotional, but I’ve been here for so long.”
RESUMPTION OF THE THIRD QUARTER
Mitchell’s pre-halftime stat line was forgettable. The Jazz guard scored two runs on 1 of 8 shots while struggling to find rhythm on offense.
Everything changed in the third trimester. Mitchell produced four baskets in five minutes to slam the door on any chance of a Thunder rally in the second half. Three of these baskets came from the perimeter.
“He was 1 in 8 in the first half, but he just let the game come to him,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He found some stuff in the ball. Dort is a hell of a defender. There were other guys we had stares at. Then all of a sudden people start playing with these guys and other opportunities present themselves. “
The Thunder will travel to Houston on Friday.
Jazz visits Sacramento on Fridays.
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