The Jazz were on a roll of sorts: they’d beaten up on Houston last night, displacing the Rockets from eighth place while assuming that position themselves. But that was last night: tonight, the Thunder forced them to assume the position for the fourth time in four tries this season, and unlike the last two — two days apart in December — it wasn’t particularly close. OKC 113, Utah 91, though if the Jazz were tired, they made the effort not to look like it.
Still, this one was enough of a blowout that Josh Huestis, the bargain player of the decade — after being drafted, he was stashed in the D-League for two seasons, earning Burger King dollars — actually got minutes; after bricking a couple of free throws, he took a pass from Dion Waiters and knocked down a trey from the left wing. You might infer from this that the Big Names checked out early, and they did: Kevin Durant played just barely thirty minutes (20 points, of course), and only Waiters exceeded 29. (The Russell Westbrook line: 15-7-9. Not a triple-, or even a double-double, but heck, he was busy enough for the 27 minutes he was out there.) The Utah scoring leaders: basically, everyone named Trey. Trey Burke had 17 points off the bench, Trey Lyles 14. (Only Burke actually hit a trey.) Unfortunately for the Jazz, this loss drops them into a tie with Houston, and worse, the King Missiles own the tiebreaker and get to claim eighth.
Meanwhile, the Thunder, now 50-22, have moved six games ahead of the fourth-place Clippers; the Grizzlies are pretty solidly ensconced in fifth, but sixth is still up in the air, with Portland a game and a half in front of Dallas. Complicating matters: next home game is against the mighty Spurs, and the rest of the season, except for two visits from Angelenos (the Clippers next Thursday, the Lakers on the 11th of April), is on the road. And while winning out, thus finishing at 60-22, seems unlikely, third place in the West seems fairly secure; the Northwest championship has already been clinched.