The Thunder had its back against the wall on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, trailing 3-1 and needing a win to survive in the first round versus Utah. Although the Jazz were able to build a 25-point lead in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook and Paul George combined for 79 points and led OKC alllll the way back for a 107-99 victory.
Utah couldn’t have asked for a better start, as they came out scorching from long distance. Jae Crowder came off the bench and hit 4-of-5, Joe Ingles went 3-of-5, and the Jazz wrapped up the first quarter shooting 70 percent from downtown. Despite an effective scoring quarter from Paul George (11), Utah held a 34-29 lead after one.
Wheels: Still on
Although the hope was the Thunder would look better offensively than it did in Games 2-4, OKC’s attack devolved into a motionless mess in the second quarter. Despite the Jazz shooting just 31.3 percent in the frame, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony combined to go 5-of-15 en route to a 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) quarter for the team overall. All told, the Thunder offense was able to muster just 12 points in the second, falling behind by 15 points at the break.
Wheels: Way off
Things didn’t look much better immediately after halftime, with Utah running out to a 15-5 start and taking an overwhelming 25-point lead. For all the hype and the “must-win” chatter, the Thunder had seemingly laid down in the season’s most important moment. The play was bad, the body language was bad, and Twitter had already collectively fired Billy Donovan.
Then the Thunder woke up.
OKC spontaneously caught the Holy Ghost at the 8:21 mark of the third, locking in defensively and riding Westbrook and George on a run that would blow the game wide open. With Rudy Gobert on the Jazz sideline due to foul trouble, the Thunder was able to get aggressive and open up the floor. Westbrook caught fire from everywhere, with George not too far behind, as OKC mounted a 32-7 run to end the quarter. Westbrook scored 20 points in the frame, Playoff P shot 5-of-8, and the game was knotted 78-78 with 12 minutes to go.
Wheels: New wheels!
The Thunder quickly grabbed the lead in the fourth quarter, then the teams went back-and-forth for a bit. However, there was no denying OKC after it mounted such an incredible comeback. Westbrook and George stayed aggressive, continually took it to the Jazz, and the Thunder was able to push its lead to 7 with three minutes remaining. Although Utah would scratch to within 3, it was all OKC down the stretch. With the comeback complete, the Thunder walked out with a resounding, possibly series-altering, 107-99 victory.
Westbrook led the way for OKC with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. George tallied 34 points and 8 rebounds. Crowder was the leading scorer for Utah, dropping a playoff career-high 27 points on 6-of-14 shooting from downtown.
The Thunder victory makes Utah’s series advantage 3-2 ahead of Friday’s Game 6 in Salt Lake City. Don’t look now but this was exactly the type of win that could open the door for something special.
35 & 52: The Thunder shot 35 percent in the first half, followed by 52 percent in the second. OKC’s ability to simply make shots changed the game and, perhaps, the series.
46 & 36: On the flipside, Utah hit 46 percent of their shots in the first half, then 36 percent in the second. Credit the Thunder defense for the turnaround here.
-4: Utah won 46-42 on the glass, including 10-7 on the offensive end.
+14: Finally, OKC was able to break through in second-chance points. The Thunder outscored Utah 20-6 in the category.
17 & 9: Utah turned it over 19 times, with OKC committing just 9.
+12: The Thunder won 44-32 in the paint.
12 & 3: There were 12 lead changes and three ties.
In the midst of much discussion about his effectiveness and ability to lead, Westbrook was downright sublime in Game 5. After scoring 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting in the first half, the reigning MVP was masterful after the break. He scored 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the third, then 13 points on 6-of-13 in the fourth.
His final stat line and highlights:
45 pts, 15 reb, 7 ast, 17/39 FG, 5/9 3P, +10
Westbrook sparked his night with Gobert in foul trouble but was able to maintain the incredible play even after the Frenchman returned. If his second half confidence bleeds over into Game 6, OKC might just be in business. This was, perhaps, his finest playoff performance yet. Seeing him get things going in the midrange was a sight for sore eyes.
For as great as Westbrook was, George was just as instrumental in the monster comeback win. He shot 8-of-16 in the second half, scoring 21 points after the break. What’s more, he was aggressive and didn’t rely on his three-pointer, routinely taking his man off the dribble and taking it into the teeth of the Jazz defense.
His stat line and highlights:
34 pts, 8 reb, 2 stl, 12/26 FG, 2/6 3P, 8/10 FT, +13
George has been the best player on the floor for the Thunder this entire series, with no performance more important than this one. He’ll need to keep it rolling on Friday.
Alex Abrines, Jerami Grant, & the Monster Third Quarter. Down 25 with a little more than 8 minutes to go in the third quarter, Billy Donovan turned to a lineup of Westbrook, Abrines, George, Grant, and Steven Adams. The bunch absolutely tortured the Gobert-less Jazz, reeling off the run that would eventually be what decided the game.
Abrines finished with 3 points on 1-of-3 shooting — box score numbers that can’t get remotely close to describing how impactful he was. He played incredibly solid defense and finished his night as a +18 in 25 minutes. As for Grant, he had 4 points in 23 minutes but was a fantastic stand-in for Melo when the game seemed out of reach. He finished as a +13. Both men deserve medals for their role in the massive, massive comeback.
Big Kiwi. Steven Adams finished with 6 points and 6 rebounds, yet his impact was incredible in this one. He was a +16 on the night and did every single little thing his team needed. Underrated night for the big man.
Quiet Melo: Just 7 points on 2-of-6 shooting for Carmelo Anthony. He was off the floor during the run that changed the game, and wrapped up his effort as a -6.
The Other Guys. The Jazz again had six men in double-figures: Crowder (27), Donovan Mitchell (23), Joe Ingles (16), Rudy (16), Ricky Rubio (10), and Derrick Favors (10). The bunch looked incredible for the first 28 minutes, yet fell apart down the stretch.