Resilient Jazz Rally To Beat Thunder

Feb 6, 2024, 11:04 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2024, 9:06 am

SALT LAKE CITY – In their final outing before the NBA trade deadline the Utah Jazz downed the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-117.

Lauri Markkanen turned in an All-Star-worthy performance with 33 points and 11 rebounds.

The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who scored 28 points.

Resilient Jazz Find Answers Once Again

For the second straight game, the Jazz overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to earn an unexpected victory.

And, for the second time this season, the Jazz have battled back from a string of difficult losses to pull back to .500 in the standings.

Though their latest climb back from two games below the .500 mark pales in comparison to the seven games they made up in December, it’s a testament to a piecemeal roster that may have gone to battle together for the final time ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.

“We’ve got young players who want to go out there and prove to the league that they belong,” Jazz guard Kris Dunn said. “And then we’ve got veteran players in the sense of we understand it’s a long season we understand there’s going to be ups and downs.”

That synergy between young players and veterans was on full display in the Jazz’s backcourt as both Keyonte George, a rookie, and the well-traveled Dunn helped the team overcome the West’s top-seeded Thunder.

Dunn’s defense was critical against superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, holding the Thunder phenom just four points on 1-4 shooting in the fourth quarter.

George, meanwhile, scored in double-digits for the sixth straight game recording 16 points and five assists on an efficient 6-11 shooting including 4-6 from downtown.

The first-year guard has now shot above 50 percent in each of his last five outings and has played all 24 minutes of the Jazz’s last two fourth quarters.

“He’s got a real understanding of what’s going on in the game,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said of George. “He’s getting more and more comfortable using his voice, not only with me but with his teammates.”

Regardless of what roster moves the front office makes before Thursday’s 1 pm MST trade deadline, the Jazz have shown the resilience to overcome multiple setbacks already this season.

Even if they do make a seller’s move, the Jazz still might find themselves in the thick of the playoff race.

Olynyk’s Value To Jazz On Display Against Thunder

With Kelly Olynyk’s name at the forefront of NBA trade rumors, there’s a chance his appearance against the Thunder was his last in a Jazz uniform.

It was a prototypical Olynyk performance scoring 10 points, dishing out seven assists, and grabbing four rebounds in just 16 minutes off the bench.

The Canadian big man was at his best over the first 4:45 of the fourth quarter scoring four points and recording three assists while preventing the Thunder from chipping away at the Jazz’s narrow lead.

“He gives us a lot of options on the offensive end,” Hardy said of Olynyk.

Though Olynyk averages the ninth-most minutes on the roster, he’s one of the team’s most versatile players offensively.

Throughout his time in Utah Olynyk has vacillated between an oddly oversized point guard to an undersized floor-spacing center, and everything in between.

If Tuesday’s game was his last with the Jazz, his role, or should we say roles, will be difficult to replace.

“We talked about it before heading out in the tunnel with the players that we’ve just got to enjoy these moments,” Markkanen said of the trade deadline. “It’s a business and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Utah Jazz Next Game

The Jazz will face the Suns on Wednesday at 7 pm MST in Phoenix. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Resilient Jazz Rally To Beat Thunder