Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s Thunder win in Utah: “Most players would have just let the play go. Give up a layup, avoid a foul and move on to the next possession. Not Russell Westbrook. Crashing over from the weak side, the 6-foot-3 Westbrook slashed into the lane to first strip 7-foot-1 Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and then climb the ladder to block him just in front of the rim. The loose ball eventually ended up in fellow Thunder point guard Dennis Schröder’s hands and then out into transition where the speedy German finished a slick driving layup off the glass, plus the foul. “It was a big moment,” Schröder said. “Russ, he never just stops playing. He’s always competing. He didn’t give up on that play. I got the rebound, just being aggressive,” Schröder added. “I used that opportunity to go to the basket.” The sequence was not just a significant one during the fourth quarter of a tight contest, but a model for the way the Thunder finished off a season-sweep of the division rival Jazz, closing out a long road trip with a 98-89 road victory. “Russ makes incredible plays on a nightly basis. Dennis stepped up big time tonight,” said Paul George.”
Any Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune) recaps the game from the other side: “After a very bad defensive performance against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Jazz came out determined to show that they were, in fact, defensively elite against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They did that! It’s just that their offense completely sputtered, putting up only 89 points in 98 possessions to earn a 9-point loss. That’s a 91 offensive rating, for those unhappy to do the math. And truth be told, the performance was even worse from the lineups you’d consider to be more helpful. Sure, the Jazz’s starting lineup of Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert had an ugly 81.8 offensive rating in the game. That’s happened before.”
Updated Western Conference standings:
Tim MacMahon (ESPN) on Russell Westbrook’s fiery interaction with Jazz fans last night in Utah: “Russell Westbrook expressed no regrets about a heated exchange with a fan during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, saying that his threat, “I’ll f— you up,” to the man and his wife was an emotional response to “completely disrespectful” comments directed toward him. The exchange, which occurred while Westbrook was on or near the end of the Thunder bench during the second quarter, was caught on video and went viral after being posted on Twitter. According to Westbrook, the man told him to “get down on your knees like you’re used to.” Westbrook considered that comment to be “racial” and “inappropriate.” “For me, I’m just not going to continue to take disrespect for my family,” said Westbrook, who had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists in the Thunder’s 98-89 win. “I just think there’s got to be something done. There’s got to be some consequences for those type of people that come to the game just to say and do whatever they want to say. I don’t think it’s fair to the players — not just to me, but I don’t think it’s fair to the players.”
Brett Dawson (Athletic) on if Russell Westbrook’s latest fan run-in could provoke actual change: “Every time I come here it’s a lot of disrespectful things that’s said,” he said after the game, adding that he did not apologize and would “say the same exact thing. As for beating up his wife, I’ve never put my hand on a woman, never will,” Westbrook said. “Never been in any domestic violence before, never have before. But once he said the comment, his wife repeated it, the same thing to me as well. So that’s kind of how that started out.” Felton said the arena security employee nearest the exchange “didn’t say one word,” but the Jazz said in a statement after the game that “multiple warning cards were issued by arena security” as a result of the incident. Those cards are issued at arenas league-wide for violations of the NBA’s fan Code of Conduct. In its statement, the Jazz said “appropriate action will be taken” if any fans violated that code. Copies of the code were placed on courtside seats pregame, a routine practice. Jazz security had been on high alert, according to multiple sources, because of previous incidents between Westbrook and fans here. There were extra security staffers near the tunnel where the Thunder entered and exited the court.”
Westbrook discusses the incident:
And the Jazz fan’s side of the story:
Zach Harper (Athletic) has the Thunder sixth in his latest power rankings: “Best Case: This team truly challenges the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. Maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder are a team capable of shocking the world with an upset of the Warriors. More realistically, the Thunder are the Western Conference team that forces the Warriors to take things seriously. While their defense has faltered lately, the Thunder still present a threat of extreme athleticism to combat all of the movement and length the Warriors can throw out on the floor. Making offense difficult and testing the limits of the Warriors defense seems doable for this Thunder team. Russell Westbrook and Paul George probably need one more sharpshooter or scorer next to them to take down the Warriors, but they can scare them quite a bit.”
Kevin Pelton/Bobby Marks (ESPN+) look at power rankings over the next three seasons: 10. Oklahoma City Thunder. Credit Paul George’s ascension into the MVP race for overshadowing questions about how Russell Westbrook might age. Ordinarily, the decline in Westbrook’s efficiency during his age-30 campaign (his .499 true shooting percentage is his lowest since his second season in the NBA) might raise serious concerns given Westbrook is in the first season of a five-year supermax extension that will pay him nearly $47 million at age 34. But George has taken advantage of Westbrook’s willingness to take a step back on offense to keep Oklahoma City in the mix for third in the Western Conference. Add in a strong supporting core and the Thunder figure to stay in contention for the next few seasons, even if they might be challenged to improve on this season’s roster with a payroll deep into the luxury tax and potentially two first-round picks headed elsewhere.”
Happy 25th birthday, Jerami Grant: JG can now legally rent a car.
Around the League: Serge Ibaka tried to kill a guy (Marquess Chriss)…. Mike D’Antoni has jokes about the Warriors losing to Phoenix…. Lou Williams is the highest-scoring reserve in NBA history…. The Grey Mamba is here to save the Lakers…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Charles Oakley thinks Jim Dolan is a bully.