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No real surprise as Jazz can't keep up with Oklahoma City in big loss

OKLAHOMA CITY — Coming off an emotional win over Houston the night before, the Utah Jazz could be excused for Thursday’s not-too-surprising 113-91 loss to Oklahoma City at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Jazz missed too many shots, committed too many turnovers and just couldn’t keep up with the more athletic Thunder team that ran past them for the fourth time this season.

The loss dropped the Jazz back into a tie with the Rockets, their Tuesday night victims, at 35-37, a half game behind Dallas at 35-36. They’ll try to finish their five-game road trip with a win when they play Minnesota Saturday night in Minneapolis.

“This is a tough game no matter what,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “This is a very very good team — one of the best in the league. We were a little depleted, and early foul trouble really hurt us. Fatigue … it’s tough to beat this team even when you’re fresh and playing well. We needed to make some shots and we weren’t able to do that and then it gets to be a big load to carry.”

The Jazz got very little from their starters, who only managed to shoot 13 of 34 from the field and only score 34 of Utah’s 91 points. Only one starter, Rodney Hood, made it into double figures with 11 points as Jazz reserves got a lot of minutes due to early foul trouble and the 20-point-plus Thunder lead through much of the second half.

Trey Burke, who didn’t even get off the bench in the previous three games on the road trip, led the way with 17 points — all in the fourth quarter — while Trey Lyles chipped in 14 points. Jeff Withey, who hadn’t played more than 10 minutes since late January and not at all in 19 games since then, scored eight points with five rebounds in 17 minutes.

The play of the bench was one of the few positives for Snyder to talk about after the game.

“That’s the thing about our group,” Snyder said. “Our guys play hard, even when they’re down a lot. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been in close games. We’ve made some games close that we aren't realistically going to win. That’s a good quality that this team has that they play hard and everybody in the game and on the bench they give us what they have.”

The Jazz were in trouble early when Rudy Gobert picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and had to head to the bench. Soon after, Derrick Favors followed him to the bench with a pair of fouls, necessitating Withey dusting off the splinters off the bench. By halftime, Gobert had nearly as many fouls (thee) as minutes (four).

Utah hung in there, trailing by three at the quarter and 11 at the half, 50-39, which was closer than the previous night in Houston when they trailed by 15. In that game, the Jazz came out of the chutes fast in the second half to quickly get back in the game.

This time it was the opponent that came out quickly as the Thunder scored 12 straight points, while the Jazz failed on their first eight possessions, missing six shots and making two turnovers.

When Andre Roberson went in for a dunk off a Utah turnover, it was 62-39 and curtains for the Jazz.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 20 points, while Russell Westbrook had a quiet night for him with 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Four other players finished in double figures, with Dion Waiters and former Jazzman Enes Kanter scoring 17 and 16, respectively, while Steve Adams added 14 and Serge Ibaka 10.

Coach Billy Donovan credited his team’s defense, which helped force 18 Jazz turnovers, for the victory, saying, “our guys have really worked hard defensively to try to get better and build a level of consistency.”

Westbrook agreed, saying, “We did a good job of coming in with a defensive mindset for 48 minutes.”

With 10 games left in the season, the Jazz are trying to finish strong and grab one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

“It’s about getting to the next game right now,” said Snyder. “I don’ think this diminishes that we’ve been playing very well. It’s not one of those things where you say you flush it and move on, it’s not that. There’s things from it that we can do better and we’ve got to go beat Minnesota.”