Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

25 points. It seemed insurmountable. Russell Westbrook had other things in mind.

Westbrook, the 2016-17 NBA’s Most Valuable Player, outscored the Utah Jazz 33-28 en route to the Oklahoma City Thunder finding a way to save their season.

“A 25-point lead, a 20-point in the NBA is not safe,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “Especially when you got two guys like Russell and Paul George that can do what they did.”

Westbrook’s heroics sends Oklahoma City to Utah in a Game 6 on Friday night with a 107-99 win.

Utah leads the series 3-2. It’s the first win in franchise history when trailing 3-1.

Oklahoma City trailed by 15 at halftime and it appeared the season was over. When the Jazz came out and threw some more haymakers, putting Oklahoma City down 25 with 8:32 the meltdown on social media and in living rooms across this great state commenced.

Russell Westbrook had other ideas in mind.

Westbrook came out of a timeout, nailed two big threes. Those threes, reminiscent of his MVP season, dagger threes. Momentum building shots that organically injected energy into the crowd. That fueled the Thunder’s comeback.

Westbrook then found George, who cut to the rim for a lay up. Westbrook came back with back-to-back buckets. In the blink of an eye, the Thunder cut the deficit down to 13 with 5:08 remaining. Everyone had hope again.

The comeback was complete when Westbrook rose in to heights of Loud City and drained a three, leveling the game at 78-all to end the third quarter.

“I think tonight obviously, with the magnitude of the game and the excitement to come back, we played off each other very, very well,” Westbrook said. “Made big plays. Paul made big plays down the stretch, stayed in attack mode, and it was good tonight.”

Throughout a large part of the run, Carmelo Anthony sat on the bench. While the Thunder took the lead right in the early moments of the fourth quarter, Anthony sat. He sat as the Thunder went on a 40-16 run. Not a typo. When Anthony finally re-entered at the 7:58 mark of the fourth, Oklahoma City clinged to a one-lead.

Utah regained the lead at 91-90 with 6:36 but Westbrook nailed another three. That was followed by an Alex Abrines three-pointer, putting Oklahoma City up 96-91.

A lot of the comeback was done without the big men of Utah. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors both had five fouls and were non-existent in the second half after being so important in the first half.

“We talked a lot better,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “We saw things coming. We just did things at a better level. That’s been our challenge.”

Over the game’s final 20 minutes and 32 seconds, Westbrook and George assisted or scored on all 61 points as the Thunder outscored Utah 61-28 over that stretch. Westbrook scored 33 points over that time frame, outscoring Utah by five.

Westbrook finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. George finished with 34 points, eight rebounds and two steals. No other Thunder player would score more than seven points (Anthony). Steven adams finished six points and six rebounds. Abrines finished a game high plus-18 for the Thunder.

Utah hit seven threes in the first quarter and the Thunder were content as they trailed by only five. However, the Jazz took a 56-41 lead into the break.

“All pride,” George said. “We’re not gonna lose here. This crowd, Oklahoma. They didn’t quit on us, didn’t die on us. We felt them. That energy was unbelievable.”

Game 6 is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. on Friday night. The late tip-off is due to those on the East coast tipping off before. That game will be on ESPN. If the Thunder win, a decisive Game 7 will be on Sunday, April 29. The time for that game has yet to be determined. It has a lot to do with the Toronto-Washington and Cleveland-Indiana series. If they go to Game 7s, Oklahoma City could see a very late tip-off again.

Three Keys to the Game

Second Quarter: F

In a quarter that was so key in previous games, was almost the dagger in the Thunder’s heart again. But, it was the Thunder’s third quarter which turned the tide.

Second chance scoring: A+

Oklahoma City scored 20 second chance points tonight. They had scored only 21 points in the previous three games. That’s huge. When they can grab offensive board and put the shots back up, they’re obviously scoring more but they’re giving themselves extra opportunities and limiting what Utah can do offensively.

Big Three: A+

This is an A+ without even Anthony being considered. Russell Westbrook was amazing. Paul George was out of this world. Both players played all 24 minutes in the second half and despite being tired gave everything to the Thunder and this season. They’ll need that a few more times.

 

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.