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EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – An high anxiety night with a superstar performance advances the Jazz

David Locke

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EMPTING THE NOGGIN
Summary: In a game that mimicked the season the Jazz advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs with a 96-91 victory

• Sorry for this is delay but I was simply brain dead after the game and couldn’t write emptying the noggin. That might sum up the night. The anxiety, the emotions, the brilliance and the end were as exhausting a game as I have ever experienced.

• The game mirrored the season to some extent. The Jazz started the night fine and then hit the skids. Rubio went out 7 minutes into the game with a hamstring injury and the Jazz offense got completely flustered. Yet, similar to the Jazz tough part of the season they scrapped just enough to stay in the game and then when Joe Ingles hit back to back threes the Jazz were tied at the half at 41.

• Then Donovan happened. Boy did it ever. In the greatest quarter in Jazz playoff history Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points in the 3rd quarter. He hit 10 straight shots. Most impressively, the reigning MVP Russell Westbrook decided to do the same thing at the same time and Donovan never blinked. He drove and scored. He pull up for buckets and hit threes. The creativity of his scoring was world class.

• Donovan is doing things that only the greatest players to ever play the game have done. He is one of 9 rookies to ever score 30 points twice in the playoffs. Only LeBron and Kareem have scored more in 6 playoff games.

• What we are experiencing with him continues to amaze. He is a bonafide superstar. There is a moment too big or an competitor that makes him blink. Very few rookies get better as a season goes on. Only the best of the best get better in the playoffs. 38 points on 14 of 26 shooting being guarded most of the night by Paul George a 3 time all defensive team player. It really is beyond reason.

• When Joe Ingles scores 10 points this year the Jazz were 38-16 in the regular season, they were 30-12 when he got 5 assists and 22-3 when he got both – Ingles had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. With Rubio out, Ingles ran the point guard for most of the night and was the calming factor in the midst of the madness.

• So many players were vital to the win. Donovan Mitchell got his 4th foul and had to leave the game and Royce O’Neale was vital in a 5 play sequence when the Jazz stretched the lead out to double digits even though Donovan was on the bench.

• With Rubio out the Jazz turned to veteran Alec Burks who had been out of the rotation for a while or a Rudy Gobert put it on the post game show “Alec Burks was great and he hadn’t played in *&*&* forever.” The game lined up for Alec. With all the switching the Thunder were doing defensively it let’s Alec play his one on one drive game and uses his strength. The same is true in the next series.

• So much of this series still came back to the presence of Rudy Gobert in the middle of the paint. The Thunder big guns Westbrook and George simply wouldn’t challenge him. George was a stunning non factor. Part of it was Westbrook pure dominance but the Jazz also changed their defensive approach and George has tendencies. When he drives right he wants to go to the basket. He wants to get a dribble left before he shoots. The Jazz had him flustered and Gobert’s presence in the middle negated what he wanted to do.

• The entire Thunder shot chart was inefficient the entire series. In a close game win that matters.

• Westbrook took 43 shots, he scored 46 points. He was the only Thunder player who scored for nearly 12 minutes.

• Derrick Favors hit the big shot. A 16 footer that put the Jazz up by 3 with 1:06 left. Then there was mayhem. The Thunder missed and got their own rebound 4 straight times. Out of a timeout they got their fifth chance and Paul George pumped fake Rudy Gobert into the air and there was a lot of contact. No foul was called. More importantly, George could have taken a clean looked to tie the game, but instead he choose to try to draw the foul and get bailed out. George is for 1 for 26 in his career in the final 24 seconds from three. Was he aware of this? Did it impact he in looking for the easy way out.

• Russell Westbrook who has been a poor playoff clutch player was 1 for 8 last night in the clutch. He is 30% for his career.

• This series was nuts. It took super human performances to beat the Jazz. It took one for the Jazz to win. The best player in the series was Rudy Gobert.

• Three teams in the West have returned to the final four – Golden State, Houston and Utah. That is unique company.

• Remarkable achievement. Basketball is alive in Utah. See you in Houston

David Locke enters his ninth year as the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz, having spent the majority of his career in radio in Salt Lake City and Seattle. In the summer of 2016, Locke created the Locked on Podcast Network which has podcast daily bite sized podcasts for every NBA and NFL team. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Locke graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and Sociology. Locke and his wife have a son and a daughter.

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Utah Jazz

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David Locke

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