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Utah Jazz: Dante Exum scores a career-high 22, but Jazz fall to Russell Westbrook's Thunder 112-104

Published March 11, 2017 4:59 pm

Thunder 112, Jazz 104 • His career-high 22 make the score respectable.
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Oklahoma City • Dante Exum plays basketball like a kid joyriding in a sports car.

"He's explosive. He's fast. He's got a gear," Jazz coach Quin Snyder says. "… It's like having a really fast car and you're learning how to drive. When you drive slow, it's easier to read the billboards and make the right turns and catch the lights."

But on Saturday, the 21-year-old in the speeding 6-foot-6 automobile helped salvage what looked like a train wreck.



The Utah Jazz lost a matinee game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 112-104, giving up a full game in the standings to the Oklahoma City Thunder along the way. Without Exum and an unlikely cast of reserves playing down the stretch, however, things might have looked much worse.

"We just kept playing," said Exum, who scored a career-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting. "We brought the energy."

They just couldn't quite bring home the victory, though that blame can be pinned elsewhere.

"We was flat," said shooting guard Rodney Hood. "We just didn't have it today."

The Jazz trailed by 19 when Snyder pulled point guard George Hill and All-Star forward Gordon Hayward with nearly nine minutes left in the third quarter. Hood followed a few minutes later.

They would watch most of the second half from the bench while the Jazz's backups — many of whom have suited up for the D-League's Salt Lake City Stars this season — turned a blowout into a close game.

They just couldn't get past Russell Westbrook and company.

Westbrook finished the game with 33 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. His 32nd triple-double moved him past Wilt Chamberlain for the second most by an NBA player in one season.

Thunder big men Steven Adams (11 points) and Enes Kanter (16 points) enjoyed themselves against a weakened Jazz frontcourt.

Utah forward Derrick Favors missed his second game in a row with soreness in his knee and center Rudy Gobert was a late scratch because of soreness in his right leg. Gobert is expected to undergo a precautionary MRI on Sunday and hopes to be ready for the Jazz's game Monday against the Clippers.

Jazz forward Trey Lyles scored 10 points in what was his best showing in weeks. Little-used rookie Joel Bolomboy scored eight points. Shooting guard Alec Burks had 21 points and seven rebounds, as he continued to work himself back into form after a series of injuries over the past two seasons.

"I'm just trying to keep taking a step," Burks said. "I ain't all the way back yet. Everybody can see that. But I'm just trying to play hard, play positive and play my way through this."

The Jazz's bench unit cut the Thunder's lead to six with just over a minute to go, before Westbrook iced the game with free throws and an emphatic slam dunk.

"I was proud of the way the guys went out there and fought," Hood said. "They stayed in attack mode. They made it a game."

Moral victories won't help the Jazz in the standings, as they continue to fight for home-court advantage in the playoffs. But, perhaps, the performances Utah got from the end of the bench could be of benefit somewhere down the road.

"It's been tough for some of those guys. Minutes haven't been there consistently," forward Joe Ingles said. "All those guys came in and contributed, so hopefully down the stretch that gives them some confidence."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk —

Storylines

R OKC's Russell Westbrook records his 32nd triple-double, the second most in any one season.

• With Rudy Gobert sidelined by leg soreness, the Thunder outscore Utah 58-44 in the paint.

 

 

 

 

 

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