OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City has been on winning streaks before. In fact this season alone, they have had runs of six consecutive wins twice.
The Thunder say their recent string of victories feels different. Not because they are exploding offensively, but because they are locking down on defense.
That was the case Thursday when Oklahoma City defeated the Utah Jazz 113-91 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The win was the sixth in a row and the third time in that span that they held an opponent to fewer than 100 points.
“I think over the last couple of weeks the guys have really worked hard defensively, tried to get better and improve, maintain and build a level of consistency,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “And I thought we did a great job tonight from start to finish.”
Kevin Durant scored 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field to go with eight rebounds and nine assists. It was the 58th straight game he has scored at least 20 points.
Russell Westbrook posted 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as he came up just short of his fourth straight triple-double. He played only 27 minutes and sat out the fourth quarter.
“I just play the game man. Read and react,” Westbrook said. “It may not be the right play, but I just play. Some guys can make the play and some guys can’t. But I know I can make certain plays and some guy cannot, so I just go for it.”
Oklahoma City center Steven Adams added 14 points and seven boards. Dion Waiters came off the bench to score 17 points.
Utah was paced by Rodney Hood, who scored 11 points on 4 of 9 shooting. No other starter reached double digits in points. Trey Burke scored 17 points as the Jazz dropped to 35-37.
“This was a tough game no matter what,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “This is a very, very good team. One of the best in the league. We were a little depleted. That early foul trouble really hurt us. It’s tough to beat this team when you’re fresh and playing well. We needed to make some shots and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Thunder have won six in a row and pushed their record to 50-22. It’s the fifth time they have reached the 50-point mark since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 sason.
Whether it was because it was the second night of a back-to-back or just that point in a long season, the Jazz came out of the gates flat. The Thunder used it to their advantage and attacked the visiting team with energy on both ends and took an early double-digit lead.
The Jazz climbed back into the contest and trailed 29-28 when Rudy Gobert picked up his third foul with 10:07 left in the second quarter. Utah’s presence in the middle had to sit out the rest of the half.
“Rudy is a big part, especially against a team that has the physicality and size that they have,” Snyder said. “It’s tough for us to overcome. We’ll look at it and see if there is a way for us to be more disciplined and for him to be more disciplined.”
Without Gobert, Oklahoma City racked up 24 points in the paint en route to a 50-39 first-half advantage.
The Thunder came out of halftime on fire. A 12-0 run to start the third — much of it built on defense and fast-break points — put the Jazz out of sync.
The Jazz tried to fight back, but could only get to within 12. Led by Durant, the Thunder put the game away at the end of the third quarter.
“I think we just do a good job of staying with it,” Westbrook said. “Continue to make tough shots and defend on a night and night out basis.”
NOTES: Oklahoma City G Cameron Payne has seen his minutes increase since March 16 after a string of DNPs and garbage minutes. “When we’ve gone with Kevin (Durant) coming off the bench to close out that first quarter, start that second quarter, it gives him another ballhandler out there,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Obviously with Dion (Waiters’) situation, dealing with his brother, he was out too. That also opened up opportunities for Cameron to play some.” … Utah C Rudy Gobert is one of five players in the NBA averaging at least nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. … Not only is Durant leading the Thunder in rebounding, his 8.3 boards per game is a career high. “Kevin has always been a good rebounder in my opinion,” Donovan said. “He’s got length. He’s done a great job rebounding.”