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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Feb 5, 2024 8:48 pm

Thunder, Jazz riding highs into meeting in Salt Lake

utah jazz

The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder might have a little pregame contest before they face each other on Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.

After the rallies each team pulled off over the weekend, the Jazz and Thunder could have a fun debate about which organization had the better comeback victory.

In the home corner: The Jazz dug out of a 19-point hole to beat the Milwaukee Bucks by 15 points on Sunday night thanks to a mammoth 40-13 fourth quarter.

And in the visitor’s corner: The Thunder overcame a 23-point deficit and eked past the Toronto Raptors for a 135-127 double-overtime win on Sunday.

While the conversation would be amusing to observe, in reality, both comeback victories were impressive and set the stage for an entertaining showdown between these Northwest Division foes.

Utah’s win was much-needed. The Jazz had lost three in a row — and six of eight — coming into Sunday’s meeting with Milwaukee. After falling behind by as many as 19 points in the second quarter, they eventually took advantage of a road-weary Bucks squad that had just put together its own impressive 25-point comeback victory the previous night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo hit two free throws to give the Bucks a 99-85 lead with 11:01 remaining in the game when things finally clicked for Utah.

Kelly Olynyk and Lauri Markkanen jump-started a 14-0 run with back-to-back 3-pointers. Keyonte George had a strong finish with 10 fourth-quarter points, while Jordan Clarkson had five points and four assists in the final frame. Walker Kessler, meanwhile, played an important defensive role in the game-ending 38-9 run.

“I thought the team did a really good job (Sunday) of really understanding what was actually happening in the game and not getting caught up in the emotion,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “That group in the fourth quarter really caught a great rhythm. … For us to come away with a fourth quarter like that, against that level of a team, is a good win for us.”

The Thunder had five players score at least 20 points in their big win over the Raptors. Josh Giddey scored 24, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 23, Chet Holmgren and Luguentz Dort each totaled 22 points and Aaron Wiggins had 20 in the win.

“They made us uncomfortable in the first half,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “You never know how a team’s going to play you, so it took us obviously a little bit to calibrate that. It was an impressive show of confidence by our team … to go out there and get that one.”

Oklahoma City drained a franchise-record-tying 23 3-pointers and took a whopping 63 shots from beyond the arc. Dort hit one of the biggest threes, giving the Thunder a 121-118 lead in the second overtime.

Gilgeous-Alexander made a clutch triple late in the first overtime.

The Thunder’s biggest deficit, 76-53, came in the third quarter. They used a 19-2 run to get back into the game heading into the fourth.

“It was a gutsy win, for sure,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who also had a game-saving block. “What we brought in the second half was needed.

“In order to win in a sustainable way requires you to trust each other. The guys that we have in the locker room trust each other, so because of that we were able to win.”

Forward Jalen Williams (sprained right ankle) and guard Isaiah Joe (bruised sternum) have each missed three straight games for Oklahoma City.

–Field Level Media

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