The Jazz stepped out of the home locker room at EnergySolutions Arena for the last time before a well-earned break.
Al Jefferson nursed a boxer’s headache, brought on by repeated blows to the scalp.
A young girl asked to have her photo taken with DeMarre Carroll, whose canary pants and matching eyeglasses belied the fierceness he utilized in a nose-to-nose confrontation an hour earlier with Kevin Durant.
Not an All-Star among them, they headed for an airplane to Minnesota, leaving behind a stunning 109-94 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder (39-13) as lights and baskets were lowered; as workers picked up trash, preparing for a monster truck showcase three nights later. Dismantling the scene of the dismantling.
"I think that’s the biggest game of the year for us," point guard Earl Watson said.
At least, it was impressive, overcoming 33 points from Durant and blowing out a team that managed to shoot 55 percent from the floor. At most, it was a critical piece to the development and playoff hopes of an enigmatic team.
"We talked about finishing strong," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We didn’t want to just back into the All-Star break ... We wanted to play our way into and play our way into the best record we could have at that point."
After entering the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead, they went on an 18-4 run to add to the satisfaction.
The Jazz are 29-24, and have now defeated Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami — arguably the three best teams in the NBA — at home. In those 24 losses, however, are head-scratching displays including Saturday’s loss at Sacramento, and Friday’s to the Chicago Bulls.
But a win over the Thunder does as much for erasing short-term memory as a Kendrick Perkins elbow to the skull, a subject in which Jefferson is now expert. Perkins was tagged with a flagrant foul, one of two for the Thunder, as well as a technical. A slap after Jefferson stripped the ball in the first quarter left Jefferson on his back holding his nose.
Jazz get physical in home win over Thunder
Salt Lake Tribune | Feb 13