Time: 8:30 PM CT
TV: NBA TV / FSOK
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Thunder returns home tonight for Game 5, facing the Jazz in what is truly the first must-win moment of the season. With Utah having won three straight and holding a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, it’s win-or-go-fishing for Oklahoma City. OKC must get three straight in order to advance to the next round.
Hype video courtesy of the Thunder:
Tip-off is at 8:30 PM CT and will be televised on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is a 3-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
Utah leads series 3-1
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: UTAH 113, OKC 96 [BOX SCORE]
Game 5: Tonight, 8:30 PM CT @ OKC
Game 6*: April 27 @ Utah
Game 7*: April 29 @ OKC
. Russell Westbrook has struggled mightily in the series, shooting just 36.7 percent from the floor and 21.4 percent from long range. He’s also turned up missing late, combining to score just 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting in the fourth quarters of games two and three. Not exactly what fans have come to expect from their superstar point guard.
As such, Westbrook’s impact and ability as a leader have come into question, with the Internet banding together to collectively tear him apart in recent days. Tonight might be the last opportunity for the reigning MVP to truly make his mark — something the Thunder desperately needs if it’s going to stay alive.Hitting Jump Shots
. The Thunder made a number of difficult jump shots in Game 1, a fact that translated into a victory. However, the Jazz defense is designed to seal the paint and force teams to rely on their shooting. As we saw in Games 2-4, the strategy has paid dividends against OKC.
Unless the Thunder has mysteriously discovered the trick to scoring near the rim, the team will need to hit its jumpers to force a Game 6 back in Utah. The OK3 of Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony combined to shoot 2-of-17 from downtown in Game 4, a conversion rate that needs to multiply tonight. (I mean, Melo has to make something.)Defending Utah’s Attack
. Donovan Mitchell has torched the Thunder defense through four games, averaging 27.5 points and 8.5 rebounds thus far. Because Andre Roberson isn’t walking through that door, it’s likely safe to assume Mitchell will continue to get his in bunches.
However, OKC can still come away with a victory if greater attention is shown to the rest of Utah’s offense. Six Jazz players scored in double-figures last time out, and Joe Ingles has come alive to score 20+ in back-to-back contests. George can make a world of difference if he makes life difficult for Ingles (like he did in Game 1) and Westbrook does his best to contain Ricky Rubio without getting in foul trouble. Utah’s offense shouldn’t be as potent as OKC’s defense has made it seem over the last three.Can’t Play Kanter
. According to his Twitter feed, Enes Kanter will be in attendance tonight in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately (you know — since he plays for a different team now), his impact will have to come by way of good luck. Regardless, it’s nice to know he will be supporting his former team against his other former team. He would have come in handy in this series.Who Wants It?
Although Utah has been superior in just about every measurable category, the immeasurable may be the most important factor tonight. The Thunder, for all its perceived firepower, has yet to step up to the challenge in the series. Utah has simply wanted it more thus far, pushing OKC’s backs to the wall just five games into the postseason.
To be clear — the season ends tonight if the Thunder doesn’t put forth its best effort of the series. The Jazz have been the better team, with the better coach, and they’ll move on to the second round if OKC doesn’t find its fight. Westbrook said yesterday that he and his teammates remain confident. The time for lip service is long, long past. It’s time to put up or shut up for this team.