Time: 9:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN / FSOK
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Thunder is on the road in Salt Lake City tonight, facing the Jazz without the comforts of home court advantage in the series. With the first round match-up knotted at one game apiece, Oklahoma City can either regain control or fall behind in a series Vegas now projects Utah to ultimately win.
Hype video courtesy of the Thunder:
Tip-off is at 9:00 PM CT and the game will be televised on both ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Jazz are a 4.5-point home favorite according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Thabo Sefolosha: Out – Knee
Jazz: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
Series is tied 1-1
Game 1: OKC 116, UTAH 108 [BOX SCORE]
Game 2: UTAH 102, OKC 95 [BOX SCORE]
Westbrook Returning to Form. In order for the Thunder to impose its will on Utah, Russell Westbrook will need to play a game that more closely resembles what fans have grown accustomed to. Due to the outstanding defense of Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, Westbrook has been relying too heavily on his jump shot — not a winning recipe if you’re the Thunder. Per Justin in the comments section, Westbrook is shooting just 27 percent when driving to the rim in the first two games. He needs to get something going closer to the basket, including bullying Rubio in the paint. He routinely backed the Jazz point guard down in Game 1 but went away from the strategy in Game 2. As always, the Thunder will go as the reigning MVP goes.
Paging Playoff P. Paul George went 13-of-20 (8-of-11 from deep) in Game 1, then followed that up with a 6-of-21 dud in Game 2. The Jazz are comfortable letting the Thunder take contested jump shots — a strategy that really pays off when OKC isn’t knocking those shots down. Much of the series will come down to George’s ability to find a rhythm offensively. With Carmelo Anthony really struggling to get going, I don’t like the Thunder’s chances if George doesn’t pick up the slack.
Slowing Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz rookie has been historically good in the first two games of his playoff career, averaging 27.5 PPG in the first two contests. The Thunder did a good job on him for three quarters of Game 2, but he was able to get rolling and torch the OKC defense for 13 points in the fourth quarter. Whether it’s Corey Brewer or Paul George taking that match-up, 48 minutes of constant pressure is required. He’s shooting just 21 percent from downtown in the series thus far — a victory for the OKC defense. Keeping him from beating his man off the dribble and getting whatever he wants near the bucket is the next step.
Winning in the Paint/on the Glass. The Jazz dominated OKC down low in Game 2, using a monstrous 20-point, 16-rebound effort from Derrick Favors to buoy their winning effort. The Jazz won 56-46 on the boards last time out, a stat that included 15 offensive rebounds. This resulted in a 20-9 Utah advantage in second-chance points, a devastating element that the Thunder simply has to improve upon. Getting a body on Favors would be a good start — something I’m not entirely certain Melo is capable of. Tinker, Billy. Tinker.
Big Kiwi. Steven Adams was virtually a non-factor in Game 2, scoring 9 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in a 22-minute outing that was truncated due to foul trouble. While his hand may or may not be injured, he has to be a bigger factor for the Thunder moving forward. Rudy Gobert is averaging 13.5 points and 11 rebounds thus far in the series, outplaying OKC’s big man in a match-up that’s as important as any.
Rubio Heat Check. Ricky Rubio scored 22 points on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown in Game 2 — getting the best of his match-up with Westbrook. The Thunder was happy to let him shoot in Game 1, resulting in a 5-of-18 night from the floor. I presume he’ll be allowed to take as many shots as he wants yet again, but Russ will need to play defense and get a hand in his face if Rubio shows any signs of a hot hand. He’s not considered a great shooter but he hit 35 percent of his long-distance attempts in the regular season. That’s good enough to pay attention to.