This game had the makings of an exciting fourth quarter showdown between some of the NBA’s best athletes. The problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder was that only Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz were the only ones to make plays down the stretch.
After a 19-0 run to take the lead late in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook and company looked prime to steal a game at home that they had frankly been outplayed in.
Then Donovan Mitchell happened once again.
The “rookie” entered the fourth with 15 points, noticeably not as explosive as he was in Game 1. With a few days of dealing with a minor toe injury, Mitchell was able to find his feet late and drop 13 points in the final quarter.
On the other side, Westbrook, who finished with 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting, 13 assists and eight rebounds, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined to go 0-for-14 in the fourth. Not the performance you want out of your stars in a tight playoff series.
“We just missed shots,” Westbrook said in the postgame. “We got the looks we wanted, they just didn’t fall.”
“I don’t really know what happened or have any excuses as to why we missed so many,” Anthony added. “Fourth quarter, we just didn’t shoot the ball well.”
Much of that is true, but a substantial amount of credit needs to go to the Jazz defense. In Game 1, “Playoff P” stole the show, scoring 36 points on 8-for-11 shooting from three.
After that performance, Mitchell was very precise as to what his wishes were for Game 2.
“I hope he doesn’t go 8-for-11 again,” Mitchell said afterwards.
Tonight was a much different story. George went 6-for-21 from the field, including 4-of-12 from three. “Playoff P” played like “Post All-Star Break P.”
Obviously a large emphasis was put on making George have a difficult night. Utah did the things necessary to make it happen. It was all the more impressive considering George’s first two made threes were and-1 opportunities.
“I think the way we locked in defensively,” Mitchell said after Game 2. “These two (Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert) really played well, and we came ready to play and took turns on it.”
Much of the blame will rest upon the Thunder’s inability to keep the Jazz off the offensive glass. A big turning point came at the 6:42 mark of the first quarter which saw Steven Adams pick up his second foul. After going to the bench, Favors and company went to work.
The Jazz finished with 15 offensive boards but grabbed seven of those in the 12 minute absence of Adams. It snowballed from there. Gobert grabbed five offensive boards and Favors finished with eight.
“We felt like Derrick offensively was really good in Game 1,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “He was really good on the offensive glass during that run for sure.”
Utah opened the game on a 9-0 run. After a Billy Donovan timeout, OKC responded with a 9-0 run of their own. With the 19-0 run by the Thunder in the third, and the Jazz 14-3 run to close the third and begin the fourth, it is obvious both teams struggle with maintaining their consistency.
With the series tied 1-1, the Thunder look to respond on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. In the last two seasons, Oklahoma City is 2-2 at Utah. Game 3 tips off at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 on ESPN.
Three Keys to the Game
Paint scoring: F
OKC finished with 40 points but surrendered 50 to Utah. It is apparent that Steven Adams is dealing with some discomfort. Billy Donovan was not willing to say he is injured but that all players “are not 100 percent at this point in the year.” With Adams in foul trouble, the Thunder’s small lineup was no match for the combined efforts of Gobert and Favors
This was the main culprit of tonight’s loss.
Share the ball: B
There were moments of great ball movement. The problem was most of it occurred during the runs the Thunder went on. In the middle of said runs, Oklahoma City would settle for bad shots, and stagnant in the half court.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!