The coronavirus made its presence felt in the metro and around the NBA when the world learned Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 before the Thunder’s home date against the Jazz on March 11.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver the Thunder-Jazz matchup and effectively the rest of the NBA season for the foreseeable future. (Shameless plug: our intrepid Thunder reporter Steve McGehee put together this in-depth report breaking down everything leading up to Saturday’s game.)
Well, the future is now. The Thunder are back on the court. For real this time! Their opponent? The…Utah Jazz. Really? Ah, well, nevertheless.
First Takeaway: The Jazz Were Sleepwalking
Utah appeared to have a leg up on Oklahoma City as Saturday was the Jazz’s second game of the season restart.
The Jazz scratched and clawed Thursday to pull off a come-from-behind win over the New Orleans Pelicans, but it was Utah that looked like the team playing its first serious NBA action in almost five months.
Around the midway point of the fourth quarter, Jazz coach Quin Snyder called timeout with his team down 21 points. Out of the timeout, the Jazz lofted an inbounds pass that was stripped and stolen away by Dennis Schroder. Schroder finished the fastbreak opportunity with a layup. That sequence summed up the Jazz’s effort on Saturday.
It is important to note that Utah is without forward Bojan Bogdanovic (career-high 20.2 points, 41.4 three-point shooter in 2019-20), who underwent season-ending wrist surgery back in May.
But Bogdanovic’s absence is not justification for why the Jazz scored 15 and 20 points in the first and third quarters on Saturday. Those are low-scoring numbers for the NBA of the 1990s and early 2000s and downright unforgivable in today’s offensively-gifted NBA.
Second Takeaway: Thunder Didn’t Play Perfect And Still Won By A Lot
Oklahoma City’s defense was exceptional. Entering Saturday, the Jazz were second in the NBA in 3-point percentage (38.1 percent). The Thunder held the Jazz to a paltry 25.8 percent shooting from the perimeter (8-for-31). Lu Dort confused and frustrated budding superstar Donovan Mitchell all afternoon to the tune of 13 points on 15 shot attempts. Nerlens Noel blocked two shots in his first four minutes of game action and finished with a game-high four blocks.
The Thunder did all of this despite Schroder committing his third personal foul early in the second quarter and the team committing 21 turnovers.
Third Takeaway: Time To Overreact?
No, it is not time to overreact. Saturday was OKC’s first seeding game out of eight (and it went great!), but the games will continue to get tougher in the interim. The Thunder will face the Denver Nuggets on Monday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
For any team currently playing, mental toughness will be the most important resource. Twenty-two teams are playing basketball again, but nothing about the restart is normal. After all, we just watched a Saturday afternoon NBA game in August from a family resort in Florida.
This season’s NBA champion might not be the best team, but it will be the most grounded.