OGDEN -- And so the 2013-14 season -- the Jazz's season of development -- has begun, kicked off with a tight, exciting 101-98 loss to Oklahoma City Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Utah's young players held strong and played well under late-game pressure. But it still goes down as a loss, the Jazz's eighth in a row counting the preseason.
"They're learning," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of his players, who combined to shoot 46 percent from the field but who also racked up 22 turnovers.
Oklahoma City All-Star Kevin Durant scored a game-high 42 points on 9-for-24 shooting and a 22-of-24 effort from the free throw line. Teammates Thabo Sefolosha and Reggie Jackson added 14 points apiece for the Thunder, who played without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.
OKC (1-0) led by as many as 15 points in the second half but the Jazz (0-1) mounted a late comeback and cut the lead down to 90-89 4:34 left in the game.
Jazz guard Alec Burks scored 11 of his team-high 24 points in the final quarter.
In addition to Burks' 24, the Jazz got 14 points, 10 assists and a blocked shot from center Enes Kanter, plus 15 points and nine boards from Derrick Favors.
Gordon Hayward, whose deep 3-pointer missed its mark at the final buzzer, played just 27 minutes, scoring 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
He also added five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Afterward, players and coaches were careful not to call it a moral victory or a positive loss or anything close to it. But they'll likely find themselves in many more close games over the next six months, which means a loss like the one they suffered on opening night may actually help them.
"There were a lot of positives," Corbin said. "There is a lot to build off of tonight. I thought the guys' effort for the most part was pretty good. I thought the defense in the second half was really good."
The Jazz held the Thunder to just 34 percent shooting after halftime while also outrebounding them 26-19.
Durant got his points but did so while taking 24 shots. But he didn't get many cheap buckets, not with Utah's defense -- led by newcomer Mike Harris -- getting physical with him all night.
After the game Durant said he believed the Jazz made him earn his points by pushing him around.
Asked if he thought the Jazz were trying to be extra physical with him, the small forward quietly said, "Yeah, a little bit."
Durant scored 21 points in the second half, 15 in the fourth quarter. With Harris hustling hard against him, the veteran shot just 3-for-11 from the field. But referees didn't allow a great deal of physical contract and Durant made 10 trips to the free throw line, converting on eight of them.
"They played hard, Utah is a good team," he said. "They move the ball well. They play inside-out and I think our guys did a good job. We just have to be a lot better. I have to be better than I was tonight."
Harris, a training camp invitee who fought hard to make the final roster, finished with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting. He played 21 minutes before fouling out.
"Durant is a great player," Harris said. "Coach (Corbin) told me before the game to just be physical with him and make every shot difficult. It's just unfortunate that I fouled out."
Harris played nine minutes in the fourth quarter, hitting 2-of-2 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. He also had two rebounds and a steal.
Contact reporter Jim Burton at 801-625-4265, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo.