With Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t supposed to lose games like this.
Not a Utah Jazz team that’s predicted by many to miss the playoffs. (Though we say they will make it.)
But personal feelings and prognostications aside, the Thunder understand perfect chemistry isn’t achieved overnight. That is why they weren’t too rattled by Saturday’s 96-87 loss at Utah.
“Honestly, I’m happy we got this blow early,” George told reporters after compiling 22 points and five steals in the loss.
And again, losing to the Jazz in their own building is no crime.
Even without Gordon Hayward, who bolted for Boston in free agency, this is a hungry, formidable group. Center Rudy Gobert can alter shots and rebound with the best of them, and has become a reliable scoring presence in the paint.
Ricky Rubio is still a master distributor with his new team, and Quin Snyder is still perhaps the league’s most unsung coach.
Gobert and Rubio each had 16 points, while Joe Inglis led the Jazz with 19.
So, no. No shame in losing to the Jazz if you’re the Thunder.
It’s just that the Thunder are expecting big things after GM Sam Presti land his Big Three — or as they are now being called, OK3.
And there was plenty to like, as Anthony added to George’s stellar play by scoring a game-high 26 points.
But Westbrook was only slightly Westbrook-like. Yes, he grabbed 13 rebounds and passed for nine assists. But he scored just six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Reason to panic in OKC? Hardly. Most teams struggle on the road, especially teams that have been reshaped.
All this really shows is that the Jazz ain’t too shabby and the Thunder still need time. Hopefully, most NBA followers already knew those things.