By Ryan Costello
The Utah Jazz visited the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night and spoiled the home team’s Halloween, their greatest tricks coming from a ball-sharing offense that saw them leave Oklahoma City Arena with a 120-99 win.
The Jazz (1-2) notched their first win of the season, while marking the first tally in the loss column for their Northwest Division rivals in the Thunder (2-1), who took three of the four games between the two last season.
Paul Millsap had a career night with 30 points and 16 rebounds, and was part of a Jazz frontcourt that scored 72 points. Al Jefferson finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Andre Kirilenko added 19.
“It was a good night for our team, a good night for me,” Millsap said. “We came into a hostile environment and got a really good win.”
Deron Williams scored 16 points and was credited with 15 of the Jazz’s 32 assists.
“They’re an excellent passing team. They’re always the league leaders in assists and tonight was no different,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said.
The Thunder combined for a total of 10 assists.
The Jazz’s ball movement parlayed into an accurate shooting performance against the Thunder’s typically steady defense. Utah shot 53% from the field, and 64% from behind the arc.
“We made some shots, and when you get your outside shooting going with your four or five position, that’s a huge thing,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, noting Millsap’s range.
The Thunder has been outshot in all three games this season, and hit on only 40% of their attempts against Utah.
“We just have to get back to playing our defensive game of basketball. It’s been decent up until tonight and tonight it wasn’t good at all,” Brooks said.
The Thunder trailed 46-40 in the second quarter before Utah used a 10-0 run in the final 3:31 of the half to put the Thunder in their first double-digit hole of the season. The Jazz then opened the third quarter with a 17-6 run to extend their lead to 27 points.
Oklahoma City answered with 12 consecutive points, including six in a 15-second span following a pair of Utah turnovers, but the Thunder never came closer than 13 points.
“We really didn’t have any energy, and they executed,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. “They jumped right on us and we waited too long to fight back.”
Durant led the Thunder with 28 points, but was responsible for six of his team’s 14 turnovers.
Sunday night was Durant and Oklahoma City’s first look at a new look Utah team that features Jefferson and a more widely-used Millsap.
“They are quicker and more athletic. Al Jefferson gives them a different type of post player and he’s tough to guard. Millsap, shooting the ball like that and causing havoc on the boards is tough to guard,” Durant said.
Jeff Green put forth his third consecutive night scoring over his 16.7 point average from a season ago, but struggled from the field, hitting only five of his fourteen shots from the field. Green finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Thunder rookie Cole Aldrich made his NBA debut on his 22nd birthday, scoring 5 points and securing 2 rebounds in 11 minutes.
The Jazz will return to Utah to face the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night, while the Thunder will embark on a two-game road trip on the west coast, against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night and the Portland Trailblazers the following night.