And just like that, it’s over.
Facing a must-win scenario on the road tonight in Salt Lake City, the Thunder came up short in the season’s defining moment. Despite 46 points and 10 rebounds from Russell Westbrook, the Jazz stifled the OKC offense and did enough to end the series with a 96-91 Game 6 victory.
The first half was unspectacular in about every way, as both offenses struggled to get shots to fall. The Thunder led 22-18 after the first quarter and held a 39-31 advantage with 2:26 to go in the half. With Utah unable to find any sort of rhythm after losing Ricky Rubio to injury early on, the game was available for the taking for OKC. However, the Jazz finished the second quarter on a 10-2 run, sending the teams into the break with a 41-41 tie. Massive opportunity missed for the Thunder, as Utah shot just 39 percent in the first 24 minutes.
The wheels started shaking off in the third quarter, with Utah sprinting out to a 5-0 start behind a rejuvenated Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz pushed the lead to 12 at the 4:51 mark, as the rookie and Westbrook had themselves an old-fashioned duel. Though Westbrook scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the frame, it was the Jazz that enjoyed the most team success. Mitchell scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the third, helping the Jazz open up a 78-70 advantage with one quarter remaining. Utah shot 15-of-22 (68 percent), outscoring the Thunder 37-29.
With the season hanging in the balance, Westbrook and Co. had one last push left in the tank. Despite trailing by 13 with just under 8 minutes to go, the Thunder hung around and trimmed the deficit to 7 with 4:17 remaining. A Westbrook three-pointer brought OKC within one with just 1:28 left on the clock. A Derrick Favors midrange jumper put the Jazz up 94-91 on the next Utah possession, then things went completely haywire for the Thunder offense.
Inbounding the ball down three with a minute to go, Westbrook missed a driving layup on the other end. After a Steven Adams offensive rebound kept hope alive, Paul George misfired on a three-point attempt — which Westbrook gobbled up on the offensive glass before missing a three-pointer of his own. The ball ricocheted off the rim and out of bounds, appearing to have last been touched by a Thunder player. However, after an official review, possession was awarded to OKC with 38 seconds to go.
After a Billy Donovan timeout, George missed a contested jumper that Adams was again able to snag off the offensive boards. He kicked it out to Westbrook….who missed a 30-foot three-point attempt, that, you guessed it, ended up being pulled in by OKC off another offensive rebound. Donovan then took his final timeout with 24.7 seconds to go.
On the ensuing possession, George was able to get Rudy Gobert in the air, drawing contact as he rose for a three-point attempt. However, no foul was called and Mitchell was finally able to secure a Jazz defensive rebound. After running the clock down to 6.9 seconds, he was fouled and sank both free throws — ending the Thunder’s season in the process.
The non-call on PG13’s final three-point attempt:
Probably should have been called but hardly why the Thunder lost the game. OKC was 0-for-6 in the game’s final minute — the opportunities were right there.
Westbrook led the way for OKC with 46 points on 18-of-43 shooting — including 7-of-19 from downtown. Steven Adams added 19 points and 15 rebounds. George, who was having a stellar series until tonight, finished with just 5 points on 2-of-16 shooting. Mitchell was an absolute killer for the Jazz, dropping 38 points to cap an incredible series for the rookie.
The Thunder season has come to an end with the Game 6 loss. Utah moves on to face Houston. OKC is headed home and will begin to face an uncertain future.
39.8: OKC shot just 39.8 percent from the field. Not going to get it done in an elimination game.
29.4: The Thunder went 10-of-34 from deep, good for just 29.4 percent.
52.2: OKC went 12-of-23 from the line, just 52.2 percent. Lost by five, missed 11 free throws. There’s math here.
+9: Oddly enough, OKC won 49-40 on the glass. That includes a 15-11 advantage in offensive boards — leading to 19 second-chance points.
-8: The Jazz won 46-38 in the paint.
8 & 3: There were eight lead changes and three ties.
Live By Russ, Die By Russ
As Royce Young pointed out on Twitter after the game, tonight was basically the entire Russell Westbrook experience crammed into 48 minutes of basketball. On one hand, he was possessed and nearly heroic enough to steal another victory from the jaws of defeat. On the other, he was trigger-happy and appeared convinced he could do it on his own.
His final stat line:
46 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 18/43 FG, 7/19 3P, -1
The 43 field goal attempts were too many — but the 19 heaves from long distance, even though 7 of them went down, weren’t good at all. He airballed more than one attempt down the stretch and capsized the Thunder offense with bad shots several times. He wasn’t getting enough help to criticize him too harshly — but still. There were better shots available, particularly in a fourth quarter that saw him shoot 4-of-14 and 2-of-8 from deep.
The Disappearance of Playoff P
After having himself a great series up until tonight, Paul George disappeared in Game 6. He went 2-of-9 in the first half, and, with the season on the line, shot 0-of-7 after halftime.
His final line:
5 pts, 8 ast, 2/16 FG, 0/6 3P, -2
If this was his final game in a Thunder uniform, it was really not the way you’d hope he would exit. It was a complete faceplant in a do-or-die moment and OKC was close enough to assume we’re headed to Game 7 if he played better.
As far as his future is concerned:
What can you say? 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting. He scored 22 points in the third quarter alone and helped Utah survive a rampant Westbrook. The kid is a star and he deserves all the praise he’s surely receiving right now.
Steven Adams. Big Kiwi had his best night of the series in a losing effort. 19 points, 15 rebounds (7 offensive), 9-of-11 shooting and a +4 in 39 minutes. He got the best of Gobert, yet it matters not with the season-ending loss. He brought it though.
Melo. Just 7 points on 3-of-7 shooting for Carmelo Anthony, as he finished up as a -19 in 26 minutes of action. He was on the bench down the stretch, didn’t appear happy about it, yet made no positive impact with his minutes. He and PG13 combined for 12 points on a combined 5-of-23 clip.
Grant & Ray Ray. I thought Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton were both great off the bench. Grant finished with 9 points as was a +8 in his 30 minutes. Felton contributed 3 points and 9 rebounds, wrapping up as a +4 in 20 minutes.
The Other Guys. Five Jazz scored in double-figures: Mitchell (38), Favors (13), Ingles (12), Gobert (12), and Alec Burks (11). It’s worth mentioning again that Ricky Rubio left with hamstring soreness and did not return after logging just 7 minutes of action.
The End. We will start to unpack the 2017-18 roller coaster in the coming days but this was a rather unceremonious end to a wildly erratic season. Time will tell how this Thunder team will ultimately be remembered — and who knows what the team will look like at the start of next season. For now, we must chalk it up to a failed experiment with a frustrating ending. In the end, it’s a “superteam” that never was.