The Thunder entered Monday night’s Game 4 in Salt Lake City facing a must-win situation — hardly the position you’d like to be in so early in the postseason. A victory would lock the series at 2-2 with two of the next three coming in Oklahoma City. A loss would require the Thunder to win three straight in order to advance.
Unfortunately for Thunder fans, the latter came to fruition. It wasn’t even close.
The game got off to a frantic start, as both teams were clearly feeling the playoff atmosphere inside Vivint Smart Home Arena. Paul George picked up an early technical after a brief skirmish with Joe Ingles, and the intensity picked up from there. Riding George and an uber-aggressive Russell Westbrook, the Thunder shot 54 percent and held a 30-24 lead after one quarter of action. Westbrook and George combined for 17 points in the frame.
The intensity continued into the second quarter, with OKC routinely attacking into the teeth of the Jazz defense. The Thunder was able to frustrate Utah with improved rebounding and points in the paint, but the officials — perhaps in an attempt to get control of the game — started filling the air with a number of whistles. Jazz coach Quinn Snyder was called for a technical, followed by a technical on Steven Adams. With the game slowed down to a grind, the teams traded buckets and trips to the line before Westbrook picked up his fourth foul at the 1:36 mark. Right on cue, Ingles hit three shots from long distance to polish off a 20-9 Jazz run, putting Utah up 58-52 at the break.
The Jazz opened up the third quarter on fire, finding Derrick Favors for an alley-oop on their first possession, followed by a Ricky Rubio three-pointer on the next. All of a sudden, the Thunder was down 11 just a minute and a half into the frame. The wheels really started coming off at the 10-minute mark, with OKC committing a 24-second shot clock violation — followed by an alley-oop to Gobert. Utah led 70-54 at the 9-minute mark after a 12-2 start to the half. Though the Thunder would scratch to within 10, the Jazz had no trouble countering every mini-burst, taking a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter in front of a raucous home crowd.
The closest the Thunder would get in the fourth quarter was 13, as Utah always had just enough to maintain a comfortable advantage. The mood was bad. The body language was bad. Most importantly, the Thunder’s brand of basketball was very bad. In the end, the Jazz walked out with blowout 113-96 win.
Donovan Mitchell led the way for Utah with 33 points and 7 rebounds. Ingles added 20 points on 5-of-11 shooting from long distance. Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
George led the Thunder in scoring for the third time in four games, posting 32 points on 9-of-21 shooting. Westbrook had 23 points and 14 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony contributed 11 points on an abysmal 5-of-18 shooting clip.
The loss is a crushing blow, as Utah takes a commanding 3-1 series lead ahead of Wednesday’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City. The Thunder must now win three in a row in order to advance to the second round.
39.3: The Thunder hit just 39.3 percent of its shot attempts tonight. 34 percent in the second half.
19: OKC shot 5-of-26 from downtown. LOL.
-3: The Jazz won 49-46 on the glass, including 10-9 on the offensive end.
-5: Utah won 17-12 in second-chance points.
10: The Thunder had 10 assists tonight. Idk.
-6: The Jazz won 48-42 in the paint.
PG & Russ
Westbrook talked the talk prior to Game 4 — but the Jazz shut him up on the court. The reigning MVP spent the night in foul trouble, looked disengaged after halftime (he shot five times after the break — once in the fourth quarter), and should start charging Utah rent for as much space as they’ve taken up in his head.
Westbrook’s final line:
23 pts, 14 reb, 3 ast (all in Q1), 5 TO, 7/18 FG, -14
Despite the loss, I felt like George played well for the most part. He was active and aggressive, leading the team in scoring for the third time in four games. He shot 6-of-15 in the second half — not great — but necessary due to another bout of unforeseen Westbrook passiveness.
George’s final line:
32 pts, 6 reb, 9/21 FG, 2/9 3P, 6 TO, -15
The Jazz Attack
Despite owning an offense that isn’t known for its potent scoring ability, the Jazz got whatever they wanted against the Thunder tonight. All five starters scored in double-figures, led by their rookie phenom, Mitchell.
Mitchell: 33 pts, 7 reb, 13/28 FG, +22
Ingles: 20 pts, 6/12 FG, 5/11 3P, +15
Gobert: 16 pts, 10 reb, 7/11 FG, +19
Favors: 13 pts, 4 reb, 6/9 FG, +15
Rubio: 13 pts, 8 ast, 6 reb, 4/12 FG, +22
O’Neale: 10 pts, 9 reb, 3/5 FG, +1
In the preview, I predicted that Carmelo Anthony would have a big game. I also said I’d eat the words in the recap if he failed to fulfill my prophecy. So…
I was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
11 pts, 6 reb, 2 blk, 5/18 FG, 0/6 3P, -18
His ineffectiveness has killed the Thunder in the series — particularly in light of Westbrook’s struggles. It’s difficult to win with both men playing so poorly.
Ugliness. Though the game wasn’t close on the scoreboard, the teams were chippy and violent with one another all night. There were a total of six technical fouls, one ejection (Jae Crowder), multiple dust-ups, and some pure venom from an awesome crowd. The atmosphere was everything playoff basketball is supposed to be — the basketball was a different story.
Big Steve. Steven Adams stayed out of foul trouble and pitched-in 8 points in the first quarter. He scored 1 point in the final three frames — a free throw in the fourth quarter. He wrapped up his night with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and a -19.
The Michael Cage Story. Down 19 with 5:30 remaining, Michael Cage had the audacity to say, “I like the fight the Thunder have shown tonight.” Per the recent broadcasting rules, he’s gotta draw a one-game suspension for that one.