Author - Marshall Clayton

Thunder edge out Cavaliers, win sixth straight

CLEVELAND — If you fell asleep during this game, no one would blame you one bit. It was quite the snooze-fest, as Oklahoma City Thunder took care of business against the worst team in the league in the Cleveland Cavaliers, 95-86.

The Thunder are now 6-4 on the season, and on a six game win streak. The Cavaliers now fall to 1-10, the worst record in the league.

Dennis Schröder was phenomenal for the second game in the row, finishing with 28 points on 58 percent shooting from the floor.

Outside of a 17-0 run by Oklahoma City, which was over a span between the second and third quarter, this was a pretty sloppy contest from both teams. There was a combined 31 turnovers, and both teams shot below 40 percent for the majority of the game. The Thunder finished just above 41 percent from the floor.

Oklahoma City led by as much as 16 points, but with the poor shooting, could not keep Cleveland from inching back into this one.

The Cavaliers did it by committee tonight, with six different players scoring in double figures. The rookie Collin Sexton led the way with 15 points, showing off some impressive finishes at the rim.

Oklahoma City started the second half with a lot of good ball movement, which led to a lot of good looks.

“I think we had good ball movement, and had really good energy, and got some good stuff going down hill,” Billy Donovan said. “Then [Cavs] chopped it down, and the lead stayed between seven and eleven points.”

“I thought both teams were inconsistent shooting the ball,” Donovan said. “For us, I am happy the way we defended and fought on that side of the ball.”

After Oklahoma City got up 12 early in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers caught fire with a handful of threes, hitting four from deep in the fourth quarter. They used those to tie it up at 84 with just under five minutes left in the game.

Then Oklahoma City finally seemed to wake up a bit, putting the clamps on Cleveland holding them to just two points in the last 4:49. The Thunder outscored the Cavs 11-2 over that final span.

Paul George finished with a quiet 18 points, while Hamidou Diallo had a nice spark off the bench with eight points in 13 minutes.

Steven Adams gave Tristan Thompson fits all night as well, as a he pulled down five of the Thunder’s seven offensive rebounds.

Oklahoma City will now head back home for a game tomorrow night versus the Houston Rockets, and will still most likely be without Russell Westbrook. The Thunder will be looking for their seventh win in a row.

Keys To The Game

Start Fast: C+

Both teams shot very poor in that opening quarter, but Oklahoma City still was able to get out to a lead, being very active on the defensive side of the ball.

Stop Fouling: B

There was still plenty of fouling going around, but Oklahoma City didn’t allow Cleveland to get in the bonus early in quarters like they did versus New Orleans a couple nights ago. Still, plenty of room for the Thunder to improve on not picking up dumb foul calls.

Paul George: B-

Though he didn’t score a ton, as most of the scoring game from Dennis Schröder, George picked his spots well, and was the playmaker when needed. He got a lot of guys open looks, while shooting the ball relatively well.

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Thunder beat Pelicans, win fifth straight

The Oklahoma City Thunder used a 38-point third quarter to rally together after the Russell Westbrook injury, to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 122-116.

Thunder are now on a five game winning streak, after losing their first four, and now are above .500 for the first time this season.

As for the Pelicans, they are on the opposite track of things, as they fall to 4-5 on the year and have lost five straight.

Oklahoma City put up 36 points in the first quarter, the highest scoring first quarter they’ve had all season.

Tonight, though, was the Dennis Schröder show as he showcased how huge he is to this team. Once Westbrook went out with the ankle injury early in the third, it felt like the Pelicans could run away with this one as the energy had been zapped out of the arena. It was quite the opposite though as Hamidou Diallo and Schröder got some fastbreak scores to ignite Oklahoma City.

Dennis finished the night with 22 points, 16 of those coming in the second half. He was the answer constantly in the fourth quarter, hitting big buckets one right after the other.

Oklahoma City led by as much as 14, but behind Julius Randle’s 26 points, New Orleans was able to keep the door open late in the game, but wasn’t ever able to get over the hump to regain the lead.

Anthony Davis scored 20 points, but shot only 35 percent from the floor as Steven Adams was able to keep in check for most of the night.

Adams also had a great night offensively, finishing with 18 points on 75 percent shooting.

The Thunder announced midway through the fourth that Russell Westbrook suffered a left ankle injury, but nothing else was reported. The information right now is limited, but with how severe the ankle injury looked, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him miss some games.

“Right now it is a sprain ankle, I know nothing more than that,” Billy Donovan said.

It is a little easier to take though, knowing Oklahoma City’s next seven games are against opponents with a combined record of 20-46.

The Thunder will be back on the court on Wednesday night in Cleveland versus the Cavaliers, looking for their sixth straight win.

Keys To The Game

Shooting: C+

It was a pretty average night, shooting wise, for Oklahoma City. They shot below 50 percent from the field, only 37 percent from three, and a poor 71 percent from the free throw line. You’ll take the field goal percentage, but the three point and free throw percentages need to continue to improve.

Free Throws: C

Still, the free throw shooting is a problem. The Thunder are leaving way too many freebies at the line, and at some point it will cost them games.

Stop Fouling: D

It feels like I’m being harsh on the Thunder in a win, but the Pelicans were able to get into the bonus very early in every quarter. This team fouls way too much, and it was a big reason New Orleans was able to hang around till the very end.

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Three takeaways from Thunder’s 113-94 win over the Hawks

It was a dominant performance, as Oklahoma City had a great second quarter to take the lead away from the Atlanta Hawks and never looked back. The Thunder had four different guys in double figures scoring, led by Paul George who had 22 points while Dennis Schroder finished with 20 points of his own. Oklahoma City is now 2-1 in preseason play, with just one more preseason game left until the regular season starts.

Now, here are three takeaways from today’s solid win by the Thunder in Tulsa:

Competent Bench Play

If there is something that Oklahoma City would love to see an improvement in this season, it’s their bench play. Being able to rely on key reserves each game to being consistent is a major key for teams that make it deep in the postseason. It is an area the Thunder have lacked. However, today versus the Hawks, the bench play was very impressive, with Hamidou Diallo and Alex Abrines leading the way. They both looked very comfortable in their roles, Abrines looking seemingly more comfortable than he ever has in a Thunder uniform. Diallo on the other hand, showing he might be ready for a good chunk of minutes, and looking like one of those great Sam Presti sleeper draft picks.

Not to mention, Nerlens Noel had some great minutes today, with big time defensive plays including an absolutely monster block on an attempted slam dunk.

Schroder is fun to watch 

No doubt Dennis in his young career had his struggles in Atlanta. Today versus his former team, Schroder looked very good. His confidence seems very high, and he seems to have the natural ability to run this Thunder offense. From his mid range game, the nifty floaters in the paint and the slick passing to Steven Adams in the two man game, it is no doubt Schroder will have a major role on this Oklahoma City team.

HAMIDOU DIALLO THOUGH

Alright, we’ve already discussed him in a previous takeaway post, and also mentioned above, but he deserves to be mentioned as his play has been a warm welcome. It seemed this guy would be a draft and stash type player, spending most of his playing time in his first year playing for the Oklahoma City Blue. But after a few preseason games, Diallo seems like the real deal, becoming maybe one of those great sleeper picks. He finished with 13 points in 24 minutes, while also just being all over the court today with his insane athleticism. It is preseason, of course, but Diallo has no doubt earned himself some rotation minutes once the regular season begins in nine days.

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Thunder Grades: Jerami Grant

In the 2018 edition of the Thunder Grades, we’re going to break down what we think went well and went poorly for players and coaches. We’re going to avoid players who barely play. So, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Daniel Hamilton and PJ Dozier won’t be graded.

We’ll do it in there ways: The Good, the bad and the conclusion. We’ll release two a day, hopefully flying through all of these.

Previous Grades: Billy Donovan, Terrance FergusonJosh Huestis and Alex Abrines

Next Up:

Jerami Grant

The Good

Grant definitely had his best season of his young career, improving his game immensely this season compared to the player he was last year in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Jerami shot a career high percentage of 53.5 percent from the floor in his fifth NBA season. He played 20 minutes per game this season, and was easily Thunder’s best player off the bench, who should’ve probably played a lot more throughout the season especially in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

There were tons of great most improve player candidates in the NBA this season, but one that flew under the radar was Jerami Grant. His improvements from the player he was last year to this year were drastic and fun to see happen over the course of the season.

Grant brought solid rebounding to the Thunder, and with his athletic ability, he was super versatile defensively being able to guard any position on the floor. When Oklahoma City had to play small ball, Grant was a big part of that lineup, as he used his length and athleticism to disrupt the opponent’s small ball advantages.

Jerami also became way more crafty in being able to finish at the rim. Last season, his goal was to dunk anything that was possible to dunk, which ended in a lot of weird misses and lost scoring opportunities. This season, Grant used his length to finish acrobatic layups, and throw down vicious dunks at the right time.

With Grant being the most consistent role player for Oklahoma City, it will be interesting to see what happens in the offseason as Jerami is an unrestricted free agent. The Thunder do not have much money to play with, but it should be essential to try to get Grant back in a Thunder uniform next season.

The Bad

Even with all the great improvements Grant made this season, there is a couple things he could work on, especially offensively. With Grant being able to guard any position, it would be huge for him to be able to stretch the floor offensively with him improving his outside shooting.

Grant shot the three quite a bit, but only averaged to make 29 percent of his attempts, which was a drop-off from the year before. Though that percentage isn’t very good at all, Jerami did hit the corner three quite well, and that could be something he could build on.

If anything, Grant needs to learn to maybe avoid shooting threes unless he is in the corner, as he seems way more comfortable shooting those. With the way he’s able to get to the rim, he could become even more dangerous if he keeps developing his outside shot.

Another small improvement Jerami could make is in his free throw shooting. He shot only 67.5 percent from the charity stripe, which in itself was better than he was last season. Still, it would be nice for his game to at least be a 75  percent free throw shooter, as much as his game will get him to the free throw line.

Conclusion

Overall, Grant had a great individual season. He helped Oklahoma City in many ways, and it could have been pretty rough if it wasn’t for his improvements. The bench play was pretty poor overall, and without Grant it could have been absolutely awful.

“I think my confidence comes from my work. The more work I put in, the more confident I am on the court,” Grant said about his development. He also credited Thunder assistant coaches Mike Davis and Adrian Griffin to the improvements he made this season.

Like mentioned earlier, Grant is a free agent now so if he stays with the Thunder or ends up somewhere else, somebody will have a very good role player who shows every sign that he is only going to get better. It was unfortunate Oklahoma City couldn’t take advantage of his skillset against teams like Golden State or Houston in the playoffs.

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Thunder Grades: Alex Abrines

In the 2018 edition of the Thunder Grades, we’re going to break down what we think went well and went poorly for players and coaches. We’re going to avoid players who barely play. So, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Daniel Hamilton and PJ Dozier won’t be graded.

We’ll do it in there ways: The Good, the bad and the conclusion. We’ll release two a day, hopefully flying through all of these.

Previous grades: Billy Donovan, Terrance Ferguson, Josh Huestis

Next up:

Alex Abrines

The Good

The 24-year old from Spain was in his second year in the NBA and averaged just about 15 minutes played per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Abrines was drafted in 2013, but made his rookie debut last season after playing professionally over in Spain. In his second year, there were some up and downs, along with some battles for Abrines trying to stay consistently in Billy Donovan’s rotation.

For the most part, Abrines got his fair share of playing time, as he appeared in 75 of the regular season games while starting in eight of those.

The best part about Alex, is himself being young but also knowing his role on this team. He knows he has to be a knock down shooter from three, while not being a total defensive liability on the other end. As Abrines came into his second year, it was apparent he would have to be a lot better defensively to get more playing time.

As the season went on and he battled to stay in Donovan’s rotation, Abrines made some serious progress with his defense. He became more aggressive, more physical and overall showed a lot of growth on the defensive end. By the tail end of the season, Alex was no longer a liability defensively, and actually had a few impressive steals and blocks on that end of the floor.

Abrines also showed no lack of confidence. There were stretches of games it felt like he was in a shooting slump and couldn’t get anything to fall from three. That didn’t stop Abrines from shooting threes, however. With the Thunder roster as is, Oklahoma City will need that confidence from Alex moving forward, as he progresses in his career and improves even more as a shooter.

Year 3 will be big for Abrines, as the Thunder will look for more consistent shooting from him, and maybe use him in the pick and roll more.

The Bad

As mentioned above, Abrines two biggest criticisms as a player this year were his defensive mishaps and inconsistency offensively.

Alex made quite the improvement defensively from year 1 to year 2, so that criticism will die down as his career moves forward, especially with the way he was playing defense to end the season. It felt like we were watching a totally different player at times, with how aggressive he was.

For the inconsistency offensively, it is what the major improvement needs to be going into year three of Abrines’ career.

In year two, Alex shot about the same percentages from the field and from three as he did in his rookie season. With how many ball dominant players Oklahoma City has, the Thunder absolutely need Abrines to be a consistent knock down shooter from deep, as it could help the offense in so many ways.

If Abrines can work on that consistency, while also improving his ball handling skills, Alex could find himself as an integral part of the Thunder’s rotation.

Conclusion 

There were definitely more positives than negatives this season for Alex, but there is a lot of improvements that Oklahoma City needs to see from him next season.

“Then to develop my offensive game. Not just being a shooter, just putting the ball on the floor, or playing the pick and roll, and being able to create for my teammates,” Abrines said in his exit interview about improving his game in the offseason.

As Abrines continues to show comfort in this system, his shooting and playmaking should only continue to improve. With the Thunder strapped for cash with Paul George either leaving or coming back, it is imperative they get their young guys like Abrines to grow each year and become better overall players.

 

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Jazz 96, Thunder 91: What they said after Game 6

In another wild game in what has been an insane series, the Utah Jazz were able to hold off a surging Oklahoma City Thunder to take the first round series and advance to the conference semifinals. Utah won the series 4-2.

Russell Westbrook had to do a lot by himself offensively, as Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were nonexistent scoring-wise. Russell finished with 46 points, hitting 18 of his 43 shot attempts. Without Westbrook going into the mode that he did, Oklahoma City would have been absolutely blown out.

Donovan Mitchell was phenomenal for Utah, and helped them a ton when Rubio went out of the game early with an injury. Mitchell finished with 38 points, 22 of those in the third quarter.

After a very active offseason in 2017 and having high expectations, the Thunder will now go home early in the postseason with a lot left unaccomplished.

Here are some key quotes from tonight’s wild game six:

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“I thought our guys came in and competed, we battled. I think if you look at the six games that both teams have played in, there have been incredible runs in both directions.”

“We gave ourselves a chance and an opportunity. It has been a great group to work with, I really really appreciate all these guys, and what I really appreciate is when you bring a new group of people together, you never know how it’s going to be in the lockerroom and how guys are going to get along. Those guys did a great job. I think there is great optimism and hope, in my opinion, of what the team could end up being going forward, because I think there is a great opportunity for us to learn and grow from this and get better from it. So, we are disappointed our season has come to an end, but we give a lot of credit to the Jazz and how they played here today.”

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“I think other people are finding out, stuff that we’ve known. Alec Burks is probably the best example of that tonight. A guy that, we’ve said, that all year long whether it is an injury or a game or foul trouble, we have had guys step up. That’s been what these guys are about, and Alec was that guy tonight. Found himself a situation, that he didn’t envision, at shoot-around today. He stayed ready….You saw tonight as good as example as you can have of a guy that was able to do that, and we don’t win that game without Alec. There’s no question about it. He is a reflection of what our whole group has been about all year.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

Every night I play, man. I leave it on the floor. I continue to say this every time I play, I’m not saying it for my health, that is just how I play. Regardless of win, lose or draw, I leave it on the floor, everything I have. Sometimes you come up short, sometimes you win. That’s my job, to bring my energy, aggressively for my team and that is what I do.”

“I don’t confront fans. Fans confront me. Here in Utah a lot of disrespectful things are said to the players. Truly disrespectful, talking about families and kids. I’m tired of going out and playing and fans saying whatever they want to say.. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t come up and say that. I don’t play that shit. I think it’s just disrespectful they can do whatever they want to do. Especially in Utah.”

Oklahoma City’s Paul George:

“It is our first year playing together. I knew that coming here. High expectations to win. I think you have to figure out the in between stuff. It takes time to become a championship team.”

“It is too soon. I would love to remain a Thunder, but that’s what the summer’s for.”

“[Russell]’s unbelievable. Amazing. A stand up guy. Its not cliché, people say he’s an amazing player and amazing person. That’s truly how you can describe Russ. He’s one of the best teammates by far. Just learned a lot. He’s an unbelievable person.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“Man, I don’t think words can really describe it. [Thunder] are a great team, they play with heart and passion, but the way we play together, we weathered the storm when they came out hot early. We stuck together that’s been our motto all year. To beat a team like that, says a lot.”

Utah’s Joe Ingles:

“It was a fun game, we obviously did not want to go back to [Oklahoma City], we wanted to finish it in front of our home fans. It is going to take a little while to wind down after that tonight. It’s a quick turnaround for Houston, and we will figure out what we got to do for that series. But obviously, tonight, is something we want to enjoy together. We’ve been a great team all year, sticking through the ups and downs, and tonight was just an example of that.”

 

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Thunder 107, Jazz 99: What they said after Game 5

The Oklahoma City Thunder completed one of the biggest NBA comebacks in playoff history in Game 5, rallying back to beat the Utah Jazz 107-99. It was the fourth largest comeback in NBA playoff history, and the actual largest comeback in Thunder franchise history.

The Jazz own a 3-2 series lead.

Oklahoma City looked dead in the water, beginning late in the second quarter, and came out absolutely flat early in the second half. The Jazz were clicking on all cylinders, especially with their outside shooting.

Then, midway through the third, Russell Westbrook and Paul George went totally bonkers, combining for 79 total points on the night.

Oklahoma City ended up outscoring Utah 66-43 in the second half.

Here are some key quotes from the teams on Game 5:

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“Then Rudy went out, and we were fighting it, but we didn’t execute as well as we needed to offensively against the [defensive] switch. Got some good looks, missed them, and then the biggest thing is 37 points in the third quarter. Just let [Thunder] back in the game, and they had confidence and life, we did not do what we needed to do.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“We stopped playing defense. We stopped getting back, and our offense got stagnant. They made adjustments, and we did not make the right adjustments back. We’ll watch the film and figure out what went wrong. But from my analysis we just stopped getting back.”

Utah’s Rudy Gobert:

“I got in foul trouble early in the game. Had a few stupid fouls that were on me, and had a fourth foul that was invisible. That was on me, I have to be smarter with three fouls and don’t put my teammates in that position.”

Utah’s Jae Crowder:

“I mean they made an adjustment, and we didn’t continue to get shots for our unit. Not just for me but for our team. They continued to go on a run, and we didn’t get looks that we wanted to get down the stretch. They made an adjustment, we didn’t make adjustments on the fly, and it cost us the game.”

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“It took a lot of toughness, a lot of resiliency, especially being down 3-1. To keep fighting, to find a way, at the end of the third, to be right there at the end of the game. Give them a lot of credit, we are excited about another opportunity to play, and extend the series. We will have to play a lot better than we did in the first half and we’re going to need a lot more in 48 minutes like we did in the second half.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

“We just know it is one game at a time. In the playoffs, you got to win on the road if you want to win the series. So, we know what we have to do. Got to go in there and take care of business.”

“Definitely, man, our guys fight all season long. Tonight is one of those nights where our crowd, everyone here in Oklahoma was behind us. We needed every bit of it tonight. Our guys stepped up and made big plays.”

Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant:

“We always had the capability, we always have the capability of coming back from whatever, with a lot of fire power with [Paul George], Carmelo, and Russ. It was just do or die, and we had a sense of urgency.”

“The crowd was amazing. We fed off their energy and they fed off ours. It was definitely a plus to play here in front of these great fans.”

Oklahoma City’s Raymond Felton:

“I have no words for it. I’ve been in the league 13 years and one of the most amazing games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Up next: Game 6 back in Salt Lake City on Friday at 9:30 p.m. Thunder time on ESPN.

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Russell Westbrook fined, given tech for altercation

After a review by the NBA, Russell Westbrook has been given a 10,000 dollar fine and assessed a technical foul for the incident with Rudy Gobert during the fourth quarter of Game 4.

Westbrook would not be receiving postgame discipline for this, however, he was possibly facing a suspension for not being in the game when he and Gobert got into a tiny scrum. Russell was at the scorer’s table checking in right before the confrontation.

It is not clear whether Westbrook was officially checked back in the game, so this is a bit of a repercussion from the league. All things considered, it is a sigh of relief considering it could be detrimental to the Thunder if Westbrook was suspended for game 5, as Oklahoma City faces elimination.

The league seemingly decided that Westbrook did not leave the bench to get into the confrontation, so no suspension was needed.

It was a rough game 4 all around for Westbrook, who came out super aggressive on Ricky Rubio, causing him to get into some unnecessary foul trouble. Emotions boiled over for Westbrook and other Thunder players, as there was plenty of stoppage with extracurricular activities happening all throughout game four.

Russell is averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists during the postseason for Oklahoma City. Though he is only shooting 36 percent from the floor, and just 21 percent from three-point territory.

With no more discipline coming down on Westbrook from the NBA, the Thunder will need a lot more from Westbrook if they have any chance in getting back into this series.

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Jazz 113, Thunder 96: What they said after Game 4

The Oklahoma City Thunder got smashed in the mouth, and let their emotions distract them from being able to even the series back up at two apiece versus the Utah Jazz. Utah took a commanding 3-1 series lead.

The Thunder let the Jazz get in their heads early, and it affected their play all night long. Utah was able to stay together as a unit, and never let Oklahoma City take advantage of any kind of lead they had.

Thunder shot 39% from the floor, and hit just five of their 26 attempts from deep. Ingles and the Jazz were able to take advantage by being able to hit 12 three-pointers.

Here are some key quotes from the teams, on tonight’s Game 4:

Utah’s Quin Snyder”

“All year one of the things we wanted to do collectively is try to generate open shots. You’re not always going to make them, but we want to keep taking them, and, you know, eventually you’re going to make some. We hit some timely ones in the second half. I think Our defense was able to be solid enough, to give us the opportunity to get some more.”

Utah’s Derrick Favors:

“It was a physical game, but we stayed with it, stayed together as a team and kept level-headed. We kept playing hard and kept getting stops. We are a mentally strong team and made sure we had each others back, and got the win.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

We stayed within ourselves. We always say the strength of our team is our team. I said this morning, we not really worried about one individual comment and think if we get caught up in that, it takes us out of our own game. Our play showed tonight that we were just focused on each other, and making the right play when we needed to.”

Utah’s Ricky Rubio:

Yeah, I mean this is playoff. It is going to be war for seven games. You got to win four, and we know there is going to be another war next game. We know we got to be tough, and mentally ready for that. We are not backing down, when it is game time we know we have to be ready for it, and respond.”

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“I think when [Westbrook] probably picked up his third, I talked to him I think it was maybe, five or six minutes to go in the second. To your point, we were playing pretty good basketball, and I trust him in that situation. I told him you got to make sure you don’t pick up a silly one here. Would’ve liked to get him off the floor at a minute or so, as I was communicating with him. But he had that offensive foul and it probably at that point in time, took his aggressiveness away on defense.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

It wasn’t about me or [Ricky Rubio]. Lets get passed that.”

“We just missing some open shots as well, they get some open ones and making them right now. We are going to keep creating, getting shots for each other, and go from there.”

Oklahoma City’s Paul George:
It is just playoff basketball. It’s going to get chippy, physical, you know we in there for a fight.”

“Play like we played in game 1. You know, there just making tough shots and making big plays. You know, as [Carmelo] said, game 5 is obviously a must win. But at this point, you know us three this is what we want. Not necessarily be in this position, but to, you know at this point give it all we got. That is all it is going to take, approach this game like it’s game seven and see what happens there, to keep this playoff run alive.”

Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony:

“Well, tried to stay engaged in the game. You know, offensively, try to still take those shots. That is something you cannot control, whether the ball go in or not. I think for the most part, just continue to stay engaged for the whole game on both ends of the court and not just worry about if your making shots or missing shots.”

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Thunder Playoff Digits: Thunder drop Game 2

It was a slow, methodical game as the Utah Jazz made some crucial adjustments after game 1 to come back and take game 2, 102-95. Utah made the Oklahoma City Thunder work for everything, and it paid off in the fourth as Thunder’s big three did not hit a shot from the floor in the last quarter. Here are some key number’s from Game 2:

14

Westbrook, George, and Melo combined to shoot 0-14 from the floor in the fourth quarter. All three got plenty of open looks in the fourth, but also have to give credit to Utah who played outstanding defense all game. They made the Thunder work for everything, and that definitely took a toll on the Thunder, especially the big three.

15

You never want to blame an outcome of a game on officiating, but you have to at least acknowledge the officiating in this game. Utah Jazz shot 15 more free throws than the Thunder, and it paid dividends. Steven Adams fouled out midway through the fourth, and he was in foul trouble from the very beginning. Oklahoma City is going to have to find a way to get to the free throw line more often in the next games in the series.

33%

As the big three struggled in the fourth, they struggled pretty much all game. They combined to shoot just 33 percent from the floor tonight, only hitting 19 of their 58 attempts. It will be a long and disappointing series if Thunder’s main core can’t shoot better than that.

13

Even in the loss, Jerami Grant was a bright spot. With Adams in foul trouble, Jerami stepped up in a big way. He finished the night with 13 points. Grant’s play will be crucial in this series, as he could be a big help down the stretch.

63%

Donovan Mitchell will get a lot of the credit for Utah’s win tonight, as he should, but Ricky Rubio was just as important. Rubio shot 63 percent from three, hitting five of his eight three-point attempts. That makes the Jazz very hard to guard, as Oklahoma City has to slack off of Rubio to pack the paint against Gobert. Rubio’s outside shooting will be a big deciding factor in the outcome of this series.

10

With Adams on the bench in foul trouble for much of the night, Oklahoma City got dominated on the glass. They got out-rebounded by ten, while also giving up 15 offensive boards. If the Thunder were able to keep the Jazz off the offensive glass, this game might’ve turned out a lot different.

31

To dig deeper in the rebounding category, which was probably the biggest part of this game, Gobert and Favors were monsters on the glass. They were a thorn in Oklahoma City’s side all night, as those two combined for 31 rebounds. They got the Jazz so many extra chances, which was crucial.

19-0

As Utah was in control for much of this game, the Thunder had quite the run in the third quarter as they went on a 19-0 run. It seemed like that would be the game changing event, but Jazz responded with resiliency. Utah did not give up when they went down by ten, rather Mitchell and company took over once that happened.

12

The Utah Jazz just absolutely shut down Oklahoma City in the fourth. Utah outscored the Thunder by 11 in the final quarter, 28-16. Not many games the Thunder will win, especially in the playoffs, when that happens.

1-1

With the Jazz stealing one on the road tonight, the series is all knotted up at 1-1. Game 3 will now be played on Utah’s home floor, as well as game 4. It is definitely going to be physical, dogfight type of series so Oklahoma City is going to have to lock down and play defense if they want to squeeze out wins and get to the next round.

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