EMPTYING THE NOGGIN
Summary: With the Jazz one step away from Houston Russell Westbrook took everyone back to Utah.
• Not sure I have ever seen a force of will like Russell Westbrook. He played with insane energy, he played with force and he willed his team to live for another day. Paul George was vital because he allowed Russell to have some possessions off. The stars of the Thunder came to play at a level that only the most awesome athletes in the world are capable of achieving and now we will play Game 6 in Salt Lake City on Friday night.
• It felt over. Westbrook had been awful. His 2nd quarter was selfish and unproductive. The Jazz defense was stifling. The Jazz went to the half with a 56 to 41 lead. I knew the Thunder wouldn’t just roll over and get humiliated, but I did think they could get selfish.
• Then the 3rd quarter started and the Thunder didn’t bring any juice. The crowd was booing. The Jazz lead 71-46. This was over. The Thunder were disengaging, they were crumbling and they were collapsing. Then Russell Westbrook hit two pull up three point shots.
• Then the Thunder took Carmelo Anthony out of the game. With Anthony out they started switching everything defensively and the Jazz lost their way. To beat switching you either have to slip picks or beat guys on mismatches one on one. Alex Abrines was their worst defender and at times they Jazz tried to search him out. However, the Jazz lacked the movement that had been their signature all series. Though when they switch it is not easy to keep that movement.
• Moments before this run Rudy Gobert picked up his 4th foul on what really looks like a phantom call by Kane Fitzgerald.
• With the Thunder rolling and the 25 point lead down to 16 Derrick Favors picked up his 4th foul and the Jazz turned to Epke Udoh.
• In this span the Jazz made some plays. Crowder had a great fast break stop, Donovan hit a layup, Udoh had a good defensive play. Each time the Jazz made this play it felt like the run would stop. However, it never did. Westbrook played the entire 2nd half. He never cooled off and he carried them home.
• However, when the offense didn’t make shots then the Thunder got out in the open floor and were able to play early offense. This is when they are at their best and they are relentless.
• Tim Bontempts of the Washington Post had this – Over the final 20:30 of the game. Westbrook and George went a combined 20 for 35 and 6 of 8 from three scoring 54 of the Thunder 61 points
• Andy Larsen had this. Jazz defensive rating with Gobert on the floor was 89.9 and with him off the floor was a 133.5
• Late in the game the Thunder came at the Jazz with Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams pick and roll time and time again and Westbrook was rolling hitting the mid range pull up and the Jazz weren’t able to get the stops to spur on the offense.
• How the Thunder use Carmelo Anthony in game 6 is going to be really interesting?
• Jae Crowder set a Utah Jazz playoff record with most threes and most three attempts going 6 of 14.
• The Thunder had Paul George guarding Donovan Mitchell tonight
• In the midst of the Thunder run Quin Snyder opted not to play Dante Exum in the 2nd half.
• It was the 250th time this year a team has lead by 25. It is the 4th time a team has lost.
• My biggest concern is the Jazz are physical whopped. The Thunder are generally more athletic at most positons and as we now are playing every other day it might be to the Thunder advantage.
• We move to Friday night. At home the Jazz will have their fight. The Thunder will bring back the switching defense, Paul George on Donovan Mitchell and a lot of Westbrook/Adams pick and roll and George/Adams pick and roll in the middle of the floor. The Jazz will need to be prepared.
• If the Jazz do advance the really tough part here is the Jazz lose two days of preparation for Houston and will have almost no time before playing Houston on Sunday at 1:30. Let’s get there first.
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