No Guarantees, but Expect Nail-Biter in Thunder-Jazz Monday

jazz thunder

Doug Upstone

Sunday, April 22, 2018 2:45 PM UTC

Sunday, Apr. 22, 2018 2:45 PM UTC

Utah will attempt to take a 3-1 series lead over Oklahoma City in Game 4. Russell Westbrook had some choice words after Game 3, so let's see if he can back them up.

Monday NBA: Thunder (4-8-1 ATS run) vs. Jazz (6-3 ATS run)Free NBA Pick: Thunder +6Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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After a nervous first quarter Saturday in Game 3, Utah settled in and over the next two quarters outscored Oklahoma City by 22 points and coasted to 115-102 victory for a 2-1 series lead. The best player on the floor was Ricky Rubio, who had Utah's first playoff triple-double in 17 years, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Rubio was only 2-for-9 from behind the arc but his mid-range game was a deadly 7-of-9.

Normally unstoppable Russell Westbrook turned in a very quiet performance for the Thunder with 14 points and eight turnovers (though he was one assist from a triple-double himself) and had this to say after the game. "He (Rubio) made shots. [He got] too comfortable. But I'm gonna shut that s--- off next game though. Guarantee that."

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For Game 4 on Monday night, Westbrook and OKC will have to do it as underdogs again as they are getting 6 points on the NBA odds board. Can the Thunder square this series before heading home?

Another Passive Effort Places Thunder in Hole

Westbrook knew he had a bad game and he understands he cannot have another. As he explained, he placed himself in too many bad spots by driving and being caught in the air with no outlets. He will need to attack but make smarter decisions. However, his teammates cannot just watch him. Who's ever on the floor has to be accessible to receiving the ball and in passing lanes.

Too often OKC players were watching Westbrook and not in a position to catch and shoot or be ready to drive to the rim. Once Utah matched the Thunder's intensity after the first quarter when trailing 30-22, Oklahoma City wilted and did not fight back. Unless the Thunder show aggression, they are cooked.

Jazz Playing Together

The hot new term coaches and players are using these days is "playing connected." Much like a puzzle, one player is connected to the next, until the pieces create a picture and are whole.

Taken at face value, coach Quin Snyder's team is not abundantly talented, but each has a particular skill and it meshes with the other players on the floor. Rubio typically does not shoot the ball like he did Saturday night, but when he does, given the strengths of the other players, when he does Utah is nearly unbeatable.

The foundation of the Jazz is its defense, but the connectivity and trust they have built with each other, it is easier to understand why they have won 19 of their last 24 games (14-10 ATS).

What to Expect for Outcome

For your NBA picks, Utah seems like the easy choice. Yet, this is Westbrook's team and if he's throwing out a "guarantee," I see no reason not to believe him. Though backing Oklahoma City is risky business (34-49 ATS on the season), look for the Thunder to play with more purpose and determination and cover the spread and maybe win the game.

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