The Oklahoma City Thunder host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. The contest starts at 7:00 central. The Thunder went 48-34 on the season, earning them the 4 seed. One interesting fact regarding this matchup is that the Utah Jazz also went 48-34. However, the regular season series gave OKC the 4 seed, and left Utah with the 5 seed, and likely playing the entirety of the postseason without home court advantage. Game one took place on Sunday, which saw the Thunder take down the Jazz 116-108. The Thunder come into this game favored at -4.
The Jazz started game 1 out the way that they played their entire season. Donovan Mitchell started the game by taking over: getting to the hoop, shooting the mid range, and hitting threes left and right. Utah lived in the passing lanes, suffocating Oklahoma City’s big three by forcing them to take low percentage shots and turn the ball over. For the first quarter of the game, the Jazz looked like a #1 seed playing an 8 that barely snuck into the playoffs.
Then, Paul George did what OKC expected him to do when they traded two very effective players (Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis) for him.
George exploded and began to do everything right, in regards to scoring. He got into the paint, shot the three lights-out, got to the free throw line, and made some tough shots. He wouldn’t relent until the final whistle, ending with 36 points. The other big performer, no surprise, was Russell Westbrook, who ended with 29 points.
Thunder: Pass the Ball effectively
Aside from the great defense played by the Jazz, the Thunder just did not seem to be making good passes throughout the game. Russell Westbrook led the team with a respectable 8 assists, but the more glaring number was Paul George’s 0 assists. While there is no doubt that George is one of this generation’s greatest players, the fact that he was seemingly unwilling to use his performance to get his teammates involved is not a good sign. George averaged 3.3 assists on the season, so it’s not far fetched to expect a big game from George to include some measure of him passing the ball.
Jazz: Outwork the Competition
Lots of things will have to go right for the Jazz in order for them to head home tied 1-1. Every 50/50 ball will need to belong to them. They will need to cash in every trip to the free throw line. Players will have to work together unselfishly to find the right shot, not to mention a certain amount of luck that they will need. The Jazz will have to beat the Thunder to the lane, ready to sacrifice their bodies to take charges, and will have to get into the passing lanes all game long. On top of all this, the Jazz will have to rely on Donovan Mitchell to give them another big performance.
Thunder Top Jazz
The Oklahoma City Thunder will take down the Jazz, but it will be a good game. In the end, Russell Westbrook will be too much to handle. The triple-double machine from a year ago, he will put up another one, finding Carmelo Anthony and Paul George for quality three-point opportunities. The Jazz will get a big game from the aforementioned Mitchell, but it won’t be enough. Utah will probably win at least one game in this series, but the three stars mentioned above for OKC won’t let it be on their home floor. Take the favored Thunder at -4.
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