It was no coincidence in Friday’s matchup that the Oklahoma City Thunder had Luguentz Dort on the court any time the Utah Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen was there.
The plan worked, as Dort made life difficult on Markkanen in Oklahoma City’s 130-103 victory.
Utah will get a quick opportunity to make up for the loss when the teams meet again Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Markkanen had six turnovers — four forced by Dort — as the Jazz turned the ball over 26 times — their most since 2015.
“He’s a good defender,” Markkanen said of Dort. “We were just trying to find ways to do something different because, obviously, I tried to set a lot of ball screens because he was not helping, so I tried to get my guys open and get them downhill. Then we tried to start playing off-ball more and I think that was better for us.”
The Thunder leads the league in turnovers forced, averaging 17 per game.
“I’m sure they’re not happy about that,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of the Jazz’s turnovers. “Some of them were probably unforced errors on their part. But at the end of the day, that’s why we want to be a team that makes multiple efforts after an initial help because it forces teams to use multiple passes and to play deeper in the shot clock.
“It allows them more time to make a mistake.”
With Utah’s Jordan Clarkson having missed the last two games — both losses — with a thumb sprain, there’s more pressure on Markkanen, who scored 20 points on Friday.
“Lauri knows that he’s going to face physical defenses,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “He’s a tough cover because of the mixture of skill and size. But it’s something that he watches film on almost every day — understanding how to get open and how to create those looks for himself.”
Saturday, the Jazz signed guard Kris Dunn to a second 10-day contract.
Dunn, who had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in Friday’s loss, has appeared in four games for Utah this season.
Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has missed the last five games with an abdominal strain and due to the league’s health and safety protocol.
Kenrich Williams has missed the last two after suffering a season-ending wrist injury. Williams’ injury figures to open up more consistent playing time for Aaron Wiggins.
Wiggins has bounced in and out of the Thunder’s rotation this season, but he has played at least 23 minutes in each of the last four games and is coming off a 27-point performance in Friday’s win.
“It’s basketball, man,” Wiggins said. “It’s a business. Regardless of the position I’m put in, the role I’m put in, the minutes I get, I just want to be out there and help my team get a win, however that may be.”
Utah has also been without Collin Sexton for the last four games with a left hamstring strain.
Sunday’s matchup is the third of four between the teams this season. The Jazz and Thunder have split the two games this season.
–Field Level Media