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OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from 110-109 loss to Utah Jazz

The Thunder and Jazz were back inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night, and this time a game was played. 

Here are five takeaways from the Thunder’s 110-109 loss in its home opener. 

Tight finish 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was inches away from his second game winner in the second game of the season. 

With the Thunder down one point with seven seconds left, Gilgeous-Alexander worked around a screen from Al Horford and then drove to the rim. Gilgeous-Alexander’s layup attempt from the right side of the basket bounced off as the buzzer sounded. 

“We had a few options on that possession,” Horford said. “One of the options I could’ve taken it in, the other one was George Hill coming down the middle, but I felt like it was a little crowded. I decided to go with Shai. Shai had a great drive, a great look there. It just didn’t fall for him.” 

Donovan Mitchell’s driving bank shot at the seven-second mark proved to be the game winner for Utah. Mitchell drove left past Luguentz Dort and finished with his right hand. 

Dort’s two-way game 

Mitchell got the best of Dort when the game was on the line, but the Mitchell vs. Dort matchup was one-sided for most of the night. Just not in the direction you would expect. 

Dort scored a career-high 26 points while limiting Mitchell to 20 points on 8-of-23 (35%) shooting. Dort only took 11 shots and he made nine of them. The second-year Thunder guard shot 5-of-7 from 3-point range. 

Dort has started the season with back-to-back games of 15-plus points. He reached the 15-point mark just three times in 36 games last season. 

“I just gotta stay confident with it,” Dort said. “I’m gonna keep shooting.” 

Dort’s consistent defense was complemented by his offense. In one third-quarter burst, Dort swiped the ball from Mitchell and finished a coast-to-coast layup. Then Dort blew past Mike Conley on the baseline for a two-handed jam. 

Most impressively, Dort didn’t pick up his first foul until midway through the third quarter. Mitchell only attempted four free throws. Dort is one of the few guards in the league who can physically match up with Mitchell. 

Horford and George Hill, OKC’s two new veterans, have both been impressed by Dort’s defense. Horford described it as “contagious.” 

“It’s difficult to guard a lot of these guys especially in today’s NBA with all the freedom of movement,” Horford said. “And just his ability to really get into the guys, really force them in a certain way and be there to contest those shots. It’s not easy, and he kept doing it consistently all game long. It’s just something that’s very impressive. I haven’t really seen many guys guard at that level.” 

Said Hill: “He’s gonna be one of the best defenders in this league.” 

3-point battle

The Thunder started the game 4-of-4 from 3-point range. OKC finished 15-of-38 (40%) from behind the arc. 

Centers Horford and Mike Muscala were both 3-of-7 from deep. 

The waiting game 

Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski is still looking for his first NBA bucket. 

After an 0-of-6 debut against the Hornets, Pokuesevski went 0-of-2 against the Jazz.

Pokusevski is at the earliest stages of his development. He’s still finding his way offensively, and he might rate near the bottom of the NBA in defense. 

But the 19 year old will continue to get chances. He played 14 minutes Monday night. 

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault even gave him a few possessions with the starters. 

Pokusevski primarily played in a second unit with Theo Maledon, Hamidou Diallo, Kenrich Williams and Muscala. That group played seven straight minutes spanning the first and second quarters, and it was only outscored by one point. 

Two-game sample

The season is only two-games old, but the Thunder has been surprisingly competitive in the small sample. 

Oklahoma City won its season opener at Charlotte and it led heavily-favored Utah by nine points in the fourth quarter Monday night. 

The Thunder held a seven-point lead with 7:30 left but then the Jazz went on an 11-0 run to retake the lead. 

The Thunder never trailed by more than five points. 

“We play to win,” Hill said. “I think that’s Oklahoma City basketball. People on the outside may not think that, but I think this city thinks that. This city knows that we can win. This city knows that there’s only one way, and that’s to play the right way and play hard on both ends of the floor.” 

Related Photos
Utah's Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Oklahoma City's Al Horford (42) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

Utah's Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Oklahoma City's Al Horford (42) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9906b4cd034e7525848c909450db24c9.jpg" alt="Photo - Utah's Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Oklahoma City's Al Horford (42) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Utah's Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Oklahoma City's Al Horford (42) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Utah's Rudy Gobert (27) defends against Oklahoma City's Al Horford (42) during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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