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SPORTS: Oklahoma City Thunder

Balanced Effort Leads Thunder Past Jazz, Brooks Clinches All-Star Spot

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Kevin Durant had a quiet night with 19 points (AP Photo) Kevin Durant had a quiet night with 19 points (AP Photo)

Grant Belcher, News9.com

SALT LAKE CITY – After an uncharacteristic loss the previous night against the Kings, there was no big show of emotion or change of game plan headed into Friday's game against the Jazz.

Instead, the Thunder came out and took care of business like the first place team in the West should.

An all around sturdy effort helped Oklahoma City waltz past the Utah Jazz 101-87 at Energy Solutions Arena, clinching the Western Conference All-Star coaching slot for Scott Brooks in the process.

The win put Brooks and the Thunder three games ahead of Gregg Popovich and the Spurs as of Friday night. The All-Star coaching slot goes to the coach whose team has the best record in the conference through games played Feb. 15, meaning the Spurs can't catch the Thunder before that time period expires.

Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls clinched the Eastern Conference's spot on Friday night as well.

The game itself for Oklahoma City was about as solid and unassuming as can be. Five OKC players scored in double figures, led by Russell Westbrook with 28.

And the Thunder defense didn't allow any Jazz player to score more than 20 points in the win, which was the fourth game in five days for the Thunder.

Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison had one of the best defensive games of the year as a front court, keeping Utah big men Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap and Derrick Favors in check.

Ibaka and Perkins both reached double digits in rebounding to help OKC outrebound Utah 46-32, a good sign for OKC after getting outrebounded the previous night against the Kings.

The win wrapped up a long stretch of games on the road. Friday's game in Utah was the fifth straight road game, all against Western Conference teams and all without the help of guard Thabo Sefolosha, who remained out with a sore foot.

It was also the eighth road game in nine days for Oklahoma City, who will have a couple days off before the next game.

Brooks said he plans to give his players Saturday off before holding two of his actual "full-on" practices on Sunday and Monday.

The Thunder will then experience a bit of déjà vu as Utah turns around and makes the trip down to Oklahoma City.

Tipoff between the Thunder and Jazz will happen at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

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