OKLAHOMA CITY • It is not often a player with the resume of Kevin Durant will say a National Basketball Association (NBA) game in mid-December against a team with a losing record possesses a post-season atmosphere.
That was the case on Sunday, though, when his Oklahoma City Thunder squad took on the Utah Jazz (10-12) for the second time in three days.
Despite being held to one basket in the first half, Durant finished with 31 points, leading the Thunder to a 104-98 overtime win at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"This was like a play-off type of game because this team made adjustments," said the forward. "We knew it was going to be tough. We knew they weren't going to come in and play the same game."
The Jazz learnt a lesson from Friday's match-up and started the night off getting physical.
Utah owned a 13-6 rebounding advantage and forced Oklahoma City into shooting 6-for-16 from the field in the first quarter. The Jazz were on top 21-16 heading to the second period, then 51-38 at half-time.
But Durant and guard Russell Westbrook kicked off the second half by sparking a 25-7 run.
Durant finished 10-for-17 from the field to go with six assists and five rebounds. Westbrook scored 25 points and handed out 11 assists as the Thunder (16-8) won their fifth straight game - the longest active streak in the NBA.
Guard Rodney Hood led the Jazz with 23 points, while guard Gordon Hayward scored 22 points. The two combined to shoot 16-for-35. Guard Alec Burks added 21 points, and forward Derrick Favors contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds.
"I don't want to be melodramatic about it all, but it certainly hurt," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the loss. "We were really, really good. And we got really tired. We were clearly fatigued in overtime, and we couldn't get a bucket."
The Jazz could have won it in regulation. With the score tied at 94-94, Hayward put the Jazz back in front with a quick jumper. Durant tried to answer with a strong lay-up, but the ball came off the rim.
The Thunder got the rebound and called a timeout with 20 seconds left in the game and 18 on the shot clock. That was enough time for Durant to drive down the middle of the Jazz defence and throw down a game-tying dunk.
Utah threw the ball away on the ensuing possession, and the game went into overtime.
Utah, who fell to 0-3 against Oklahoma City this season, were outscored 8-2 in the extra five minutes.
In overtime, Oklahoma City scored eight unanswered points to put the contest away. Utah could not get a shot to drop from the perimeter, and Serge Ibaka was a defensive force in the middle.
The Thunder had 13 blocked shots on the night, including six from Ibaka.
"We got stops," Durant said. "Everybody had a man boxed out and we were just grabbing rebounds, so we made them shoot tough shots. I think all night we made them shoot tough shots."