Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 31 points and Jalen Williams’ big fourth quarter carry Thunder past Jazz
The Associated Press - January 20, 2024 1:50 pm
By MATTHEW COLES Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points, Jalen Williams had 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped the Utah Jazz’s six-game winning streak with a 134-129 victory on Thursday night.
“We’re not feeling 100% and yet really competed for 48 minutes together on both ends against the hottest team in the league coming in,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “We probably didn’t have a fastball physically, but we had our fastball mentally and competitively.”
Williams, who shot 11 of 14, made four 3-pointers and has scored at least 25 points in three consecutive games.
“The guy lines up and guards a premier matchup every night tonight,” Daigneault said. “And for him to be able to do that offensively and do that defensively is a very complete game. It’s very impressive.”
Williams asserts it’s all about confidence.
“There was flow and it just has been been happening in the fourth quarter,” said Williams, who has been nicknamed ‘Fourth Quarter Dub.’
Cason Wallace scored a season-high 16 points and Josh Giddey had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, who had 29 fast-break points.
“We try and play downhill. That’s our identity,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who shot 15 of 17 from the line. “We run and we want to touch the paint whenever we can.”
Collin Sexton scored 31 and Lauri Markkanen added 26 for the Jazz, who had their nine-game home winning streak stopped. It came a day after the NBA postponed Utah’s game scheduled for Wednesday against Golden State because of the death of Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojević in Salt Lake City early that morning.
Sexton made three free throws and a dunk to get Utah within 130-126 before Wallace made his season-best fourth 3-pointer for the Thunder.
“He’s not flinching,” Daigneault said about Wallace after the rookie’s seventh start. “Just great poise and mental toughness.”
Jordan Clarkson answered with a 3-pointer for Utah, but Chet Holmgren blocked Walker Kessler’s dunk attempt. On the ensuing out of bounds play, the Jazz couldn’t convert on two attempts and Holmgren closed the win with a free throw.
“We battled and gave ourselves a chance to win the game. That’s all you can really ask for after a first half like that,” Markkanen said.
The Thunder made their first seven shots in the fourth quarter, and with Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench, Williams’ 3-pointer capped a 6-0 run and Oklahoma City led 113-102 with 8:49 to play.
“We’re starting to figure out how to attack (zone defense) best and I thought it was a good response from the other night against LA, where we settled for a lot of 3s, but tonight I thought we made a heavy emphasis of getting into the paint making zone collapse first,” Giddey said of the Thunder’s success against multiple defensive looks.
The Jazz caught the Thunder and tied the game twice in the third quarter, but Utah never took the lead
The Thunder stormed out to a 34-15 lead behind Gilgeous-Alexander’s shots in the lane and trips to the line, mainly off transition.
The Jazz trimmed the lead to 64-61, but Oklahoma City shot 60% in the first half and five starters were in double figures by halftime as the Thunder led 76-67. That tied for their season high in first-half points.
“They were getting into the paint way too easily,” said Utah’s John Collins, who had 21 points. “Some of that stuff comes back to bite us in the butt at the end of games like this where it’s a game of small margins and we need every point we can get.”
The Thunder finish their four-game road trip at Minnesota on Saturday night.