Bogdanovic scores 22 as Utah Jazz top Thunder 109-93
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 22 points, and the Utah Jazz beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-93 on Friday night to inch closer to claiming the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Jazz have the league’s best record and a 1 1/2-game lead on idle Phoenix in the race for the top seed in the West. Utah can clinch the top seed with a win at Sacramento on Sunday or a loss by Phoenix against San Antonio on Saturday or Sunday.
Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points and Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 18 rebounds for the Jazz, who had lost two straight.
Veteran All-Star guard Michael Conley returned after missing nine games with a right hamstring injury and scored 10 points in 16 minutes.
“I went out there and had fun,” he said. “It was a lot of fun getting to the paint and making plays. Got to the free-throw line a lot. Kind of feeling out the game and picking and choosing my spots to be aggressive.”
Conley was on a minutes restriction and did not play in the second half.
“They know I want to play and they’re always there to protect me from myself,” Conley said.
The Jazz were glad to see him back and hope he finds his groove in time for the playoffs.
“Mike’s a huge part of what we do,” Gobert said. “He’s one of our leaders, he’s our most experienced player. We know that we’re going to need him.”
Svi Mykhailiuk scored 19 points, and Theo Maledon and Gabriel Deck each added 18 for the Thunder, who lost their ninth straight. Oklahoma City entered the night tied for the league’s third-worst winning percentage.
The Jazz led 61-47 at halftime. Bogdanovic scored 13 points in the first half and Gobert had nine points and 11 rebounds. Mykhailiuk scored 17 points in 11 minutes in the first half for the Thunder.
The Jazz expanded their lead in the third quarter and took a 92-66 advantage into the fourth.
“We’re just trying to tick forward,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We’re just trying to use these games to understand what we have. And I thought we did that again tonight.”
Jazz: Shot 52.4% in the first half. … All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell was out again with a sprained right ankle. He has been out for about a month. … Georges Niang scored 11 points.
Thunder: Guard Lu Dort sat out with right patellar tendinitis. … Maledon took nine shots in the first quarter and made three. … Had just 13 assists and 17 turnovers. … Made 15 of 16 free throws. … Deck’s 18 points were a season high.
Conley on getting too excited about his return: “Mostly the first game, I’m just working myself up. I’m so excited. I literally tried to do 1,000 squats and 1,000 lunges just getting ready for the game and find out that I just wore myself out before I get out there.”
In eight games this month, Bogdanovic is averaging 26.5 points on 54% shooting from the field and 46% shooting from 3-point range. His season averages are 17 points per game on 44% shooting from the field and 39% shooting from 3-point range.
Thunder forward Darius Bazley made just one of 13 shots. He was coming off a 3-for-13 game against Sacramento on Tuesday.
Jazz: Visit the Sacramento Kings on Sunday to close their regular season.
Thunder: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday to close their regular season.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
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