Jazz Have Pushed Thunder to Brink; Will OKC Push Back in Game 5?

jazz thunder

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 3:10 PM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2018 3:10 PM UTC

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s season – and maybe Paul George’s time in an OKC uniform – will end Wednesday night without a home victory over the Utah Jazz.

Game 5: Jazz (3-1) at Thunder (1-3)Free NBA Pick: ThunderBest Line Offered: BetPhoenix

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There four Game 5s in the NBA playoffs on Wednesday night, and SBR will have preview of all of them. Only two series can end Wednesday: Western Conference No. 1 Houston should take care of business at home vs. No. 8 Minnesota, while I’m here to talk about No. 5 Utah at No. 4 Oklahoma City.

The Thunder won the series opener but Utah has taken the past three. That means Wednesday could be the last game Paul George plays in an Oklahoma City uniform should his team lose. Of course, the Thunder acquired George in trade before this season well aware the team was taking a risk because George will become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he promised nothing to OKC.

It’s an open secret that George would like to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers (or maybe even the Clippers). I don’t believe George will re-sign with the Thunder if they are bounced in Round 1. Some guys also simply don’t like playing with Russell Westbrook because he’s a bit of a ball hog. I even wonder if Thunder coach Billy Donovan might decide he’s had enough with the NBA and perhaps head back to college. Should Oklahoma City win here, Game 6 would be Friday night back in Salt Lake City.

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🎥| @spidadmitchell set a new Jazz rookie single-game scoring record tonight with 33 points.

Karl Malone had 31 in 1986.#TakeNote pic.twitter.com/ku9KFELExM

— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 24, 2018
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Jazz Playing More as a Team

I’m not going to sit here and say that Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, a rookie, and Ricky Rubio, are both better than Westbrook, who of course has averaged a triple-double the past two seasons. However, Mitchell and Rubio both have been better than Westbrook in this series of late.

Take Monday night’s Game 4, won by Utah 113-96 to take a 3-1 series lead. Westbrook had vowed to shut Rubio down in the game after Rubio had a triple-double in Game 3. Perhaps Russ should have kept his mouth shut because he had four first-half fouls and that certainly played a big role. Rubio was still very good with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds with a plus-22 rating. Mitchell has been unbelievable in this series and finished with a game-high 33 points. The only other Jazz rookie with a 30-point playoff game was some dude named Karl Malone with 31 on April 20, 1986 at Dallas. Mitchell’s 110 points through his first four career playoff games are second-most by a rookie behind Michael Jordan’s 117 in 1985.

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PG finishes w/32 but Thunder falls to Jazz in Game 4. Back to OKC for number 5 Wed night in LOUD City. pic.twitter.com/NuYLJ1aB54

— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 24, 2018
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Westbrook finished 7-for-18 for 23 points and 14 rebounds but he was so focused on dominating Rubio that he picked up those early fouls and finished with a season-low three assists. You are a point guard, dude. As a team, the Thunder had just 10 helpers, too often playing hero ball. In one stretch, the team went 22 minutes and nine seconds of game time without an assist. George had 32 points, but Carmelo Anthony stunk again in hitting 5-for-18 (0-for-6 from deep) for just 11. He looks shot. Per usual, OKC also got little from its bench.

Game 4 was very physical with several technical fouls, including Utah’s Jae Crowder hitting Steven Adams in the jaw with an elbow in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Crowder, who was given a tech and ejected, will be suspended but it’s possible.

Utah is the better “team,” but Westbrook, George and even Anthony will shoot better in their own gym. OKC covers for a Wednesday NBA pick and to force Game 6.

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