Game 2 Preview: Jazz @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CT
TV: NBA TV / FSOK
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Thunder fans stuck it out through the 8-12 start, Andre Roberson’s season-altering injury, continued Westbrook hate from outsiders, and more painfully stupid losses than one could count. However, on Sunday night, OKC faithful were finally rewarded for that commitment with an emphatic Game 1 victory over the Jazz. The Thunder still has 15 more wins to go, but at least for one night, fans finally saw the long-promised playoff team they’ve been dreaming about since July 1.
Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony combined for 80 points. Alex Abrines had 11 points off the bench. Five Thunder players scored in double figures. The ball movement, the floor spacing, the defense: all nearly perfect. The Thunder won and Westbrook didn’t even need a triple-double to make it so. In fact, Westbrook wasn’t even the star of Game 1. A part of me wishes we could just pause the season here and avoid whatever heartbreak may or may not be coming for Thunder fans, but all the ups and downs are what makes that coveted first championship the sweetest. At least that’s what I’m told.
The Thunder returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight for Game 2 of their first-round series against the Jazz. Both Paul George (hip contusion) and Donovan Mitchell (foot contusion) are listed as questionable for tonight’s game. It seems unlikely that George will miss tonight’s game, but Mitchell, on the other hand, said today that his foot is causing him a lot of pain and that he’s “real determined on playing but if my body can’t, I’m not going to push it now and then not be available the rest of the series.”
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CT on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is currently a 5-point favorite over the Jazz according to OddShark.
- Paul George: Questionable – Hip
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Donovan Mitchell: Questionable – Foot
- Thabo Sefolosha: Out – Knee
Jazz: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
Numbers from 2017-18 regular season
|Team||EFG||FTA||TOV%||OREB||OPP EFG||OPP FTA||OPP TO%||OPP OREB%|
Click to Enlarge
Thunder O & D:
Jazz O & D:
OKC leads series 1-0
Game 1: OKC 116, UTAH 108 [BOX SCORE]
Playoff P. Before Game 1, Paul George hinted that his playoff alter-ego, “Playoff P”, would be making his first appearance in an OKC jersey. While his self-given nickname is admittedly a bit dorky, George has earned the right to call himself anything he wants after his epic Game 1 performance (36 points and 7 rebounds). After George struggled offensively during the final weeks of the regular season, it was a welcome sight to see him dominating on both ends of the floor again. The Jazz simply had no answer for Playoff P’s ankle-breaking handles or his eight made three-pointers (a franchise playoff record). I expect the Jazz will make some adjustments on defense for Game 2, but if Playoff P keeps showing up there’s not much the Jazz can do to mitigate George’s exceptional size and length. In Game 1, Utah tried putting everyone from Donovan Mitchell to Joe Ingles to the DPOY-favorite Rudy Gobert on him and Playoff P still couldn’t miss. The Jazz may just have to hope that George won’t shoot 73 percent from three tonight, which was awesome but probably not sustainable anyway.
Defense and Donovan Mitchell. Despite leaving the game temporarily after getting his foot stepped on, Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell still got his in Game 1, finishing with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Even though OKC won Game 1, there were still some areas that needed improvement and defending Donovan Mitchell is a big one. Near the end of the fourth quarter, OKC got a bit lazy on defense and allowed Utah to go on a late run and close the lead from 18 to 8 with one minute left (even with Mitchell on the bench). As always, it’s extremely important that the Thunder doesn’t become complacent after a Game 1 victory.
FYI — looks like Mitchell plans on playing.
Adams Advantage. The Jazz can be a difficult matchup for OKC because unlike most teams, Utah actually has a threatening center who mitigates the size advantage the Thunder usually has with Steven Adams. However, this doesn’t mean that Adams can’t be a huge asset for OKC in this series. In Game 1, he had an alright performance with nine attempts from the field and four offensive rebounds (on par with his season averages but not very explosive for the playoffs). Adams’ elite offensive rebounding is what allowed OKC to lead the league in second-chance points during the regular season. OKC should look to capitalize on Adams’ strengths on the offensive end by feeding him the ball more and letting him rough up Gobert a little under the basket.
George vs. Ingles. Many people thought Paul George would be the one to guard Donovan Mitchell in the playoffs, but Coach Billy Donovan stuck to his regular season strategy of putting George on Joe Ingles and it paid off massively. Throughout Game 1, George stayed glued to Ingles, giving him absolutely no space to do anything but score in transition. Ingles finished with only 1 assist (compared to his season average 4.8) and got called something that rhymes with “snitch bass” after Playoff P hit a three over him. Despite Donovan Mitchell’s big night on Sunday, expect Coach Donovan to keep things fun and let George guard Ingles in Game 2.