Oklahoma City • It was meant to be a white flag. It unintentionally became a comeback effort.
When coach Quin Snyder subbed out his starters, it was a move motivated to rest their legs and avoid any (further) injury for Game 2 on Wednesday night. But in less than two minutes, a 15-point lead evaporated to six points, and Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and company had to stave off Alec Burks, Raul Neto and Ekpe Udoh.
While it took a while for Utah’s bench to find its way in a 116-108 loss, the reserves were the reason the score ended up so close in the end. And that, in a way, is a hopeful note for the Jazz, who will need their depth to show up in Oklahoma City.
“In the end … we scored some points, not enough to win,” Snyder said. “But defensively is where we’ve got to be better. I’m confident in our bench and the job those guys have done, and like I said, we’ve got to play better.”
There were some evident shortcomings, particularly as the Thunder began to take control in the second quarter. Royce O’Neale, who the Jazz were counting on to help defend Paul George, ended up being on the receiving end of some tough 3-point makes from the All-Star. Jae Crowder was 3 for 10, and Jonas Jerebko played only four minutes, looking slow-footed as Carmelo Anthony slipped by him for a basket at the rim.
Snyder said he particularly liked the way Dante Exum (10 points) drove to the rim. It will have to become more of a staple in the series if the Jazz are going to take some games back.
“I think we handled ourselves in patches a little bit,” Exum said. “We are only going to get better as the series goes on and refine everything.”
Minor injuries nothing serious for Thunder
While the Jazz were busy worrying about Donovan Mitchell, two Thunder starters got dinged up on Sunday night.
Late in the game, Paul George went out with a sore hip. He told reporters later it was an aggravated injury from a game against Atlanta in the regular season, but called it “all good.”
Similarly, Steven Adams appeared to have a right hand injury that he was favoring late in the game. The Thunder told media that it was of no serious concern.
Two other Thunder players who were in question before the series began were able to play.
Corey Brewer (knee) started for Oklahoma City and ended up with seven points, three rebounds and two steals. Alex Abrines (concussion) also played and was the Thunder’s leading scorer off the bench with 11 points. Coach Billy Donovan said he was “encouraged” by the performances he saw from both players.