In a physical back and forth series the Utah Jazz emerged as the winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Defense and the outstanding play of rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell proved too much for OKC. Physicality, Trash talking, and guarantees were the makeup of this series that went to six games. In this post-series analysis and with their season on the line, let’s take a look at the storylines that fueled this six-game series between the Jazz and Thunder.
Post-Series Analysis: Utah Jazz Defeat Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 Games
Utah’s Defensive Presence
The Utah Jazz continued to show why they were one of the hottest teams in the league entering the playoffs. The Jazz stifled the Thunder with their defense and played to the weaknesses of their players.
Ranked third in defensive efficiency in the playoffs, the Jazz led by Rudy Gobert in the middle made Oklahoma City take tough shots. Gobert was an important part of Utah’s defense averaging 14 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.00 bpg, and 1.17 spg. His presence in the middle forced the Thunder to take contested shots in the paint and settle for three-pointers.
Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio, and Jae Crowder helped defend the perimeter forcing Russell Westbrook and Paul George to take contested jumpers. The pressure applied up top backed by Gobert’s presence gave the Thunder problems all series long.
The impressive rookie set the playoffs on fire with his scoring ability and poise down the stretch in this series. Donovan Mitchell became the third rookie over the past 35 seasons with multiple 30-point games in a series. He joins Alonzo Mourning and Michael Jordan as the only rookies to accomplish that feat.
As the number one option, Mitchell provided the Jazz with timely baskets when they needed it and was the driving force for Utah. Going forward Mitchell will have to be at his best as the Jazz are set to faceoff against the number one seeded Houston Rockets.
Carmelo Anthony Missing in Action
Carmelo Anthony’s trip back to the postseason wasn’t quite what he expected. Anthony was the absence of efficiency; averaging a pathetic 11.8 ppg on 37% shooting from the field and 21% from the three. Most believed Anthony would play better in the postseason after a pedestrian regular season. Anthony has struggled all year to find consistency playing alongside George and Westbrook. He even found himself on the bench during the 4th quarters of a few games because of his struggles.
In his 15th year, Anthony doesn’t offer much on the defensive side of the ball. If he isn’t the cerebral scorer we know him to be, he doesn’t serve many purposes. The Thunder will have to make a decision on how to play Anthony next season who has already stated in his exit interview that coming off the bench is “out of the question”. Anthony has a player option that he could choose to opt-in worth a hefty $28 million.
Russell Westbrook’s Way
Russell Westbrook’s brand of basketball just doesn’t work. After averaging a stellar 29.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg, and 7.5 apg, the Thunder still lost in six games to a team with no all-stars. Westbrook shot 82 times over the last two games and continued to hoist up horrendous three-pointers throughout the series.
While dynamic and physically gifted at times, Westbrook’s lack of basketball awareness and poise has cost the Thunder. Getting caught up in a one-on-one matchup with Ricky Rubio – a point guard we know he is better than – didn’t make much sense. That seemed to take precedence over the most important thing: winning.
Westbrook’s inability to gel with other high-profile stars on court leaves many wondering whether George will return to the Thunder. Now George had bad games and Westbrook didn’t get much help from Anthony. I would also agree that coaching could have been a lot better on OKC’s side. At some point, we must look at the best player of a team and wonder why things are not working. Until there is a coach in Oklahoma City who is able to reel Westbrook in, I don’t see them getting anywhere.
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