Game 4 Preview: Thunder @ Jazz
Time: 9:30 PM CT
TV: TNT / 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 in what should easily be considered a must-win playoff situation. As Utah currently holds a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-7 series, an OKC victory would knot the series 2-2 with two of the three remaining games being played at Chesapeake Energy Arena. A loss would be crippling, forcing the Thunder to win three straight in order to advance to the next round.
Hype video courtesy of the Thunder:
Tip-off is at 9:30 PM CT and will be televised on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma. Utah is a 6-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
Game 1: OKC 116, UTAH 108 [BOX SCORE]
Game 2: UTAH 102, OKC 95 [BOX SCORE]
Game 3: UTAH 115, OKC 102 [BOX SCORE]
Game 4: Tonight, 9:30 PM CT @ UTAH
Game 5: April 25, 8:30 PM CT @ OKC
Game 6*: April 27 @ Utah
Game 7*: April 29 @ OKC
Shutting That Sh*t Off. Ricky Rubio has been lights out in the previous two games, averaging 24 PPG and dropping a 26-11-10 triple-double in Utah’s Game 3 thrashing of the Thunder. Following that contest, Russell Westbrook said “He made some shots. Too comfortable. But I’m gonna shut that sh*t off next game though. Guarantee that.”
The Thunder’s Game 4 chances likely hinge on Westbrook’s ability to shut that sh*t off. While he’s at it, he should also try to get something going near the rim offensively. His relative ineffectiveness in the face of Rubio and Rudy Gobert’s defense has absolutely throttled the Thunder in the last two games. As far as Westbrook’s bold proclamation is concerned, Jonas Jerebko simply said: “We’re not really worried.”
Steven Adams Foul Trouble. After logging just 22 minutes and fouling out of Game 2, Steven Adams again found himself in foul trouble during Game 3. Per ESPN’s Royce Young, the Thunder was outscored 30-14 over the final minutes of the first half after Adams was sent to the sideline with his third foul. All told, he finished with 8 points and 2 rebounds in 26 minutes of action.
It should go without saying, but the Thunder needs Adams on the floor in order to play to its fullest potential. Although there was a bit of success running Patrick Patterson at the five — something I’d imagine there will be more of tonight — Adams needs to be on the floor for well over 30 minutes, something he hasn’t gotten close to doing in the last two losses.
On the Boards/Second-Chance Opportunities. Utah has dominated OKC on the glass in the previous two games, including a healthy advantage on the offensive boards. As a result, the Jazz have been able to convert a number of second-chance opportunities, essentially beating the Thunder at its own game. OKC is in for another long night if it’s not more impactful rebounding the basketball — starting with Adams, who had just two in Game 3. Keeping Gobert and Derrick Favors from gobbling up offensive rebounds would also go a long way toward a winning effort.
Mas Abrines. Alex Abrines scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the Thunder’s Game 1 victory, but went scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting in Games 2 and 3. It’s difficult to love his match-ups on the defensive end but he’s still a net-positive for the series. I’m looking for an Abrines renaissance game tonight in Salt Lake City.
Smothering Ingles. Because Donovan Mitchell appears to have no trouble dropping 20+ on the Thunder defense each night, greater emphasis must be put on defending Joe Ingles. After holding the Aussie to 8 PPG in games 1 and 2, he found a rhythm in Game 3, scoring 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, 5-of-10 from long distance. Paul George needs to be stuck to Ingles tonight, as Utah becomes infinitely more terrifying if Ingles is hitting from long range.
Melo for 3. Carmelo Anthony is just 6-of-20 from downtown so far in the series, a miserable 30 percent. With Westbrook playing poorly, George a bit sporadic, and Adams locked in the fight of his life with Gobert, the stage is set for something out of Melo. I don’t know why — I’ll eat these words in the recap if I have to — but the old man gets going tonight and has the best game of his series, temporarily shutting up blog boys around the Internet.*
*No statistics were considered when making this prediction
Paul George discusses Westbrook’s “shut that sh*t off” comments. Via Fred Katz.