A Series In Review: Jazz vs. Thunder

An in-depth look at all six Jazz-Thunder games including Utah's second-half collapse that included a 25 point lead abolished in just nine minutes.

Running through the Thunder in just six games, the Utah Jazz went against all the odds to annihilate a superstar driven Thunder team. So today, we are going to take a look at the different parts of this series, and what affects they had on the game. 

Spreading The Love

Possibly the scariest thing about this Utah team is there isn't one or two superstars you have to stop for the whole team to collapse (i.e., Trail Blazers). It seemed that for every win, they got big performances from different players. In game two, Derrick Favors finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds to steal home-court advantage. And playing for a contract this summer, having significant moments in the playoffs certainly won't harm Derrick's market. 

And then there was, of course, the infamous "Rubio Game." In game three, Ricky Rubio exploded for a 20 point triple double that had Westbrook so flustered, he was mentally checked out of game four and occupied with his personal battle. But we'll get to that later. Speaking of game four, Joe Ingles (a.k.a Toby Flenderson) left the game with 20 points, taking Paul George out of his element. And although Donovan Mitchell was consistently excellent throughout the series, to me, game six was his defining moment. Following a tough loss on the road, Mitchell led the Jazz with a 38 point performance to send the Thunder packing. 

Mental Games

As physical as both these teams played in this series, mental attitude became a significant factor. And for the Thunder, sporting three all-stars with massive egos may have hurt them in this fight. Westbrook, possibly the hardest working and most competitive player in the league let Ricky Rubio get in his head. Paul George, an all-around superstar, let Joe Ingles (a.k.a Toby Flenderson) get in his head. And Carmelo Anthony, a rapidly aging, former all-star, basically let the entire game of basketball get in his head. If Oklahoma City wants to excel and have any postseason success, they must develop thicker skulls. 

As for Utah, they smartly focused on the actual game of basketball rather than making promises to press. And that's the thing, Utah's veterans, and even Donovan Mitchell keep their composure on and off the court. For example, despite Westbrooks physical play in game four, Rubio kept is head down and realized, Westbrooks petty shenanigans would only hurt his team. The only instance of the Jazz losing composure is Jae Crowder's scuffles with Paul George. But even in those, it is way more costly for Oklahoma City to lose their second best player than it is for Utah to lose a solid role player. 

Carmelo Anthony

At times, Carmelo Anthony was by far the worst and most ineffective player on the court. Throughout this series, Anthony shot just 37% from the field and 21% from behind the arc. Horrific numbers, Carmelo was equally, if not worse on the defensive end. The Jazz didn't even have to put a move on Melo to blow by him. Whenever Carmelo got switched onto Mitchell, it was a guaranteed drive to the basket. And more likely than not, Utah was walking away with points on the board. 

Key Takeaways

  • Playoff Donovan Mitchell has officially arrived. Versus the Thunder, Mitchell shot over 46% from the field as well as just under 40% from behind the arc. Also, three out of the Jazz's four wins, Mithcell led them in scoring. 
  • Despite him shooting 45% on threes in the regular season, teams still feel fine leaving Joe Ingles wide open. I will let you know when someone realizes they must stick with him no matter what. 
  • Depending on the game, Russell Westbrook is either the worst player on the court who is trying to do too much or the best player that is single-handedly carrying his team. 
  • Carmelo Anthony is no longer a borderline all-star with one more shot at getting a big contract. If Anthony does opt out of his contract in Oklahoma, I see him getting no more than five million per year. 
  • Going into next series, if the Jazz can force Houston to play at their pace as they did with the Thunder, they will be in the driver's seat. 
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