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Tuesday Bolts: 4.17.18

Nick Gallo with yesterday’s Thunder practice report: “Sure, there were a lot of aspects of Game 1 on Sunday evening that the Thunder can control, and can do a better job with, like turnovers and transition defense. There were also factors like shot making that the Thunder was fortunate to have go its way, but there even more areas where Donovan’s group executed crisply on its game plan, and that helped engineer the right start to the series. Forcing Jazz playmakers like Rubio, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles into tough jumpers off the dribble instead of drives for passes is a goal for the Thunder defense.”

Donovan Mitchell’s status is uncertain for Game 2: “Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell underwent an MRI that showed he has a left foot contusion, and the team announced that his status for Wednesday’s Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder will be updated Tuesday. Mitchell left Sunday’s Game 1 in the fourth quarter to get an X-ray on the foot before returning and playing through apparent pain in the Jazz’s 116-108 loss.”

Fred Katz on the Thunder trying to mitigate Rudy Gobert’s impact: “The Jazz want to give up mid-range jumpers. They’re far from the only defense schemed that way. But the Thunder capitalized on the looks Utah allowed Sunday. That range from 16-to-22 feet is open when Gobert hangs around the deep paint. And they made enough to turn a notoriously dry area of the floor relatively efficient, hitting 11 of 23 from mid-range. Russell Westbrook took 12 of those. Anthony and George combined for 10. The Thunder intentionally swung to sides where Gobert wasn’t and tried to operate from there. Center Steven Adams did his best to seal Gobert in moments when Oklahoma City dribblers got near the hoop. “As long as he’s away from the paint and stuff, it’ll be a lot easier to get layups or whatnot,” Adams said.”

Marc Hinton (Stuff New Zealand) on Steven Adams trying to stifle Gobert: “Adams was not a big offensive factor in game one dominated by the outside shooting of Paul George (eight of 11 triples) and influence of Russell Westbrook, but he did what was needed to prevent Gobert from carving up.  The big Frenchman had 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, but was not the intimidating factor he has been in the Jazz’s remarkable back part of the season. Thus the Thunder’s reasonably comfortable 116-108 win to open the series. “When you box him out you try to get him as far away from the bucket as possible,” said Adams who had 12 points and seven boards.  “He’s a very big dude, with long arms, and it’s not good enough just putting a body on him … pushing him out is my mindset. And offensively it’s just normal stuff, trying to time where I’m going to get a shot and get better position on him.”

Erik Horne on the Thunder needing to continue the defensive detail in Game 2: “On Monday, Jazz coach Quin Snyder attributed Utah’s offensive issues to spacing. It’s hard to space when George limits Ingles’ touches as a shooter or passer. It’s also tough when Brewer and various Thunder defenders follow the game plan. Brewer properly went under screens on the light-shooting Rubio, who missed all seven of his shots from 16 feet or longer, and challenged Mitchell even if his body wouldn’t fully allow him. “Once we settled down, started running our stuff, and defensively started getting into their bodies and making it tough on them, we got the game in hand,” Brewer said.”

Jonathan Tjarks (Ringer) on the “Playoff P” experience: “Paul George was ready for his moment. His self-proclaimed “Playoff P” nickname didn’t seem quite so ridiculous after a brilliant performance in Oklahoma City’s 116-108 victory over Utah in Game 1 of their first-round series on Sunday. George was the best player on both sides of the floor, scoring 36 points and grabbing seven rebounds while playing dominant perimeter defense. The never-ending referendum on Russell Westbrook, his personality, and his style of play has dominated the discussion about the Thunder this season. George has a chance to become a superstar in his own right in these playoffs. (George missed the final minute of Game 1 with a right hip contusion but said afterward that he’d be ready to go for Wednesday’s Game 2.)”

Brad Rock (Deseret News) on the Jazz hoping to have similar small market success as the Thunder: “The Oklahoma City Thunder are what the Utah Jazz want to be when they’re all growed up. Trailing 1-0 in their best-of-seven series, the Jazz aren’t conceding anything. It’s just that OKC is what the Jazz want to be, i.e., a seriously strong team in a relatively underrated city. Two decades ago, when the Jazz twice made the NBA Finals, there was suspicion this could never again happen with a small-market team. Then San Antonio won five championships. Oklahoma City has been to four conference finals, including one NBA final. So take a close look, Jazz. As they say in the weight-loss commercials, this could be you! It might even happen soon.”

Kyle Goon (Salt Lake Tribune) on Jazz center/Oklahoma-native Ekpe Udoh and his growing legacy in his home state: “Udoh, 30, makes himself hard not to love in the eyes of Oklahomans. While basketball has flung him far afield from Oakland to Istanbul, the 6-foot-10 center always comes back home. In Edmond, his hometown, he is known for annual summer camps for up to 120 kids. The camps include basketball instruction from him, a gaggle of his boyhood friends and usually one or two special guests (one year, Jamal Crawford came). It comes with lunch — oh, and it’s free. That last part, that’s what’s most important to Udoh, who pays for the camp completely out of pocket and relies on volunteers to be counselors and organizers.”

Scott Davis (Business Insider) on how the Paul George/Victor Oladipo trade is casting a shadow over the playoffs: “Two of the most significant performances of the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs came from two players who were traded for one another. On Sunday, Victor Oladipo poured in 32 points to help the Indiana Pacers pull off a surprising upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Paul George dropped 36 points on the Utah Jazz to help the Oklahoma City Thunder win their first game of the postseason. Rewind to last June, when the Pacers traded George to the Thunder for Oladipo, and second-year big man Domantas Sabonis and nearly everyone in the NBA world questioned whether the Pacers had gotten enough for their superstar forward. Oladipo and Sabonis were both coming off of disappointing seasons with the Thunder, and the Pacers didn’t receive any draft compensation in the trade.”

Around the League: Dwyane Wade turned back the clock and helped the Heat tie the series with Philly…. Joel Embiid is tired of being babied…. KD & the Warriors are up 2-0 on San Antonio…. Pop says the Spurs’ cold shooting is hard to overcome…. LaMarcus Aldridge has “no comment” on the Kawhi Leonard situation…. The history of LeBron James vs Lance Stephenson…. Top social media moments from Week 1 of the NBA playoffs.