Team basketball wins over talent, Utah leads 3-1
By: A. Suave Francisco
After a game where Ricky Rubio dominated the reigning MVP for a triple-double, Russell Westbrook spoke out, saying he was going to "shut that s--t down."
He was successful for a third of the game, but OKC failed to play all 48 minutes, resulting in a 113-96 loss in Game 3 to the Utah Jazz.
Westbrook's statement held true through most of the first half. Rubio didn't make a field goal until the 2:10 mark of the second quarter and it was because of Westbrook. As a matter of fact, Westbrook may have been a little overzealous guarding Rubio, missing help assignments, often due to him concentrating exclusively on 'his guy'.
But nevertheless, the gameplan still seemed to be working. OKC were up 30-24 after the first quarter, while shooting 52 percent from the field. Rubio had only three points, all off free throws and more importantly, no assists.
The same thing held true for most of the second quarter. That was until the game grew in intensity, both teams got into a couple dust-ups, and Oklahoma City let that frustration work against them to end the half, which Utah led 58-52.
The second half belonged to Utah. That energy from the end of the second quarter parlayed into the second half and Utah took advantage of everything.
Ball-movement or lack thereof by Oklahoma City was the biggest and most obvious flaw. Their defense wasn't great but ball-movement is what hurt them the most. Their offense went stagnant, players weren't making shots, and many of those shots weren't quality. The Thunder as a team only assisted on 10 buckets for the game and only one in the third. As result, OKC got outscored 66-43 between the second and third quarter, mostly due to Utah scoring on 12-straight possessions during that period.
The damage was done by the end of the third quarter as Utah expanded their lead to 90-73, with all of the momentum heading into the fourth. The altercations didn't help anything either. Although altercations like that may build the intensity, leading to momentum for both teams, the team that stays the most composed during those situations usually comes out on top. Monday night, that was Utah, led by two players that don't have any playoff experience: Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio.
Rubio ended up playing an effective game, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting, but his 8 assists in the second half really benefitted his team mightily. Rubio simply found a way to make an impact, despite not getting many quality shots up.
Quin Snyder on if he was OK with the aggressiveness Russell Westbrook played with on Ricky Rubio.
"Yeah, like I said, it's not about an individual matchup. I think both teams were aggressive. You're going to have aggressive, physical games Both teams want to win. That's the way the game goes. We want our guys to be aggressive, be solid, and not lose sight of what we need to do to win this game."
On the contrary, the seasoned veteran named Russell Westbrook scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds but his mere three assists were far more significant in Game 4.
Donovan Mitchell has proven to be a future star after consistently being the best player in a series that features an NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and two, maybe three Hall of Famers. Mitchell finished the game with poise. After scoring 20 of his 33 points in the second half, he's a proven star that can out-perform in the clutch.
Oklahoma City now trails this series (3-1) with the season's fate relying on a Game 5 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. You can expect the intensity to match Game 4's.
Feature photo: Zack Beeker/ OKCThunder.com