Thunder vs. Jazz score, takeaways: Chris Paul puts on a master class as OKC looks like a dark horse in West

The Oklahoma City Thunder dominated the Utah Jazz from start to finish for a 110-94 victory on Saturday. By virtue of having played one more game in the bubble so far, Utah continues to cling to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference thanks to a slightly higher winning percentage, but it is now knotted up with the Rockets and Thunder in the loss column for seeds 4-6. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, moves into the No. 5 seed ahead of Houston. 

Here are four takeaways from OKC’s victory. 

Chris Paul the master

Paul was phenomenal for OKC on Saturday, as he’s been all season, finishing with 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting. Paul controlled tempo, set everyone around him up with great shots and got to his patented elbow jumper at will. 

And again:

Paul has arguably been a top-five MVP candidate this season and should make an All-NBA team. It continues to be hilarious that people thought he was done when Houston traded him to OKC. He’s having a historic season in clutch situations, but that wasn’t necessary on Saturday as the game was never close in the second half. 

OKC looks like a dark horse

I’m not judging this off one game. Rather, Saturday’s performance was merely a continuation of what OKC has done all season, which is frustrate teams defensively and ride their perimeter stars to a highly efficient, balanced offense. So far this season, the Thunder are sporting better than a 119 offensive rating when Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — who finished with 19 points and six assists vs. Utah — are on the floor together, per Cleaning the Glass. Those two were a combined plus-42 on Saturday. Meanwhile, six Thunder players scored in double figures. 

Right now OKC would match up with Utah in the first round, and you would have to heavily favor the Thunder in that matchup given how much Utah is struggling to create offense without Bojan Bogdanovic. They would then get the Lakers in the second round, and while an upset there seems unlikely, do not rule out a hell of a hard series if that ends up being the matchup. OKC is going to be one tough playoff out. 

Jazz in trouble without Bogdanovic

Creating consistent offense continues to be a struggle for Utah. Without Bojan Bogdanovic, the spacing is cramped and they just flat out don’t have enough players outside of Donovan Mitchell who can create their own advantages. Jordan Clarkson tries to get things going off the bench, but that is a flimsy crutch. When Mitchell himself is struggling, as he has mightily through the first two games in Orlando, the problem becomes almost insurmountable. 

Mitchell shot just 5 of 15 on Saturday, including 0 of 4 from 3, for 13 points. He shot 6 for 14 against New Orleans on Thursday. That’s a combined 38 percent if you’re counting, and that’s not going to cut it for a Jazz team that now needs Mitchell to be a full-blown superstar to have any chance against the good teams, let alone the great ones. 

Not nearly enough people realize how great Bogdanovic was for Utah from a fit, and a pure production standpoint. He is one of the best shooters in the world, which spaces the floor for Mitchell to do his work. And he can create his own offense, which again takes pressure off Mitchell. Outside of stars, it’s about as big a loss as any team could’ve suffered heading into the bubble. 

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