PHOTO/Getty Images-Alex Goodlett
In a game many had already written off the Oklahoma City Thunder instead showed they won't be pushovers this season but also showed they still struggle at the free throw line and in the layup line in a 100-95 loss at Utah.
The brightest spot for OKC was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who scored a career-high 26 points in his Thunder debut. Chris Paul showed he can still play, hitting four 3s and scoring 22 points. Danilo Gallinari added 21 and Hami Diallo pitched in a dozen.
But Steven Adams, who was saddled with three fouls early, couldn't hit a shot from the field or the line going 1-for-8 for three points with a couple of turnovers and 1-for-6 at stripe. Dennis Schroder had an identically frustrating line also scoring three points on 1-for-8 shooting. OKC was outscored in the paint 58-34.
The Thunder got off to a terrible start missing nine of their first 11 shots and trailing 23-12 at the end of the 1st quarter. They turned things around in the middle of the game outscoring the Jazz 62-45 in the second and third quarters combined but then began struggling again at both ends of the floor in the 4th quarter.
OKC's offense stalled at times under the pressure of Utah's outstanding defense.
"I thought they (Jazz) got physical on some cuts and we've gotta be more determined in our movement," head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. "We'd make a cut and it was kinda just get taken away and we just stopped. We need to make a counter cut or a second cut."
Even with the struggles Donovan saw plenty of reasons for optimism moving forward.
"This was a great game for us, playing against a good team in a tough place to play on the road and you know we're right there all the way to the end so I think there's a lot of things we can take from this and learn from and hopefully get better."
The Thunder will host the Washington Wizards, 108-100 losers against the Mavericks in Dallas last night, on Friday night at The Peake.