The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the NBA's most efficient offenses - their last game notwithstanding.
While that's usually enough to frustrate opponents, their defense is catching up to their high-powered attack.
Coming off one of their best defensive showings, the Thunder go for a fifth straight win Tuesday night when they visit a Utah Jazz team merely trying to regain its footing.
Oklahoma City (39-12) has won its last four games all by at least 21 points, and 13 of 17. The Thunder routed Phoenix 127-96 on Friday, and two days later beat the Suns 97-69 in Arizona. They held Phoenix to 33.0 percent shooting while forcing 23 turnovers on Sunday.
Thanks to that performance, Oklahoma City is allowing an average of 88.5 points during its winning streak.
"We are just trying to focus on us every single day and how we can be better and playing up to our standards, which is defense first," said Kevin Durant, who had 18 points - his second-lowest total of the season - in just 29 minutes.
The Thunder, the NBA's top-scoring team at 106.4 per game, failed to reach 100 points for just the third time in 14 games, but some of that had to do with the outcome being in little doubt and the regulars coming out early. Russell Westbrook had 24 points in 28 minutes and Thabo Sefolosha added a season-high 20, knocking down a career-best five 3-pointers.
"The thing about our team, we have guys who can come in and do a good job when needed," coach Scott Brooks said. "There are some guys who don't get to play, but it's nice for them to get opportunities."
The Thunder have won six of seven against Utah, including a 106-94 victory on Nov. 30. Durant led the way with 25 points while Westbrook put together an unusual statline with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, eight turnovers and seven steals.
The Jazz (28-24) had won 10 of 11 home games before a 93-89 loss to Chicago on Friday, then took a 120-109 beating at Sacramento on Saturday.
Utah trailed by as many as 20 points and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were essentially rendered ineffective due to foul trouble, combining for only 22 points and 11 rebounds in less than 40 minutes. The duo averages a combined 32.3 points and 16.8 rebounds.
Their limited minutes also hurt Utah's interior defense, as the squad allowed a season-high 26 second-chance points.
The Jazz got a lift from Alec Burks' career-high 24 points off the bench, though it wasn't enough to overcome Sacramento's 51.8 percent shooting.
"It was a tough situation for Al and me when we are both trying to win a basketball game," Millsap said. "It happens. We just dropped two in a row. These last two games this week are important for us going into the (All-Star) break."
Millsap is averaging 13.3 points in his last four games against the Thunder after averaging 25.5 in his previous four.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Martin, averaging 23.6 points over his last 12 contests against the Jazz, sat out Sunday with the flu, and his status is uncertain.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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