Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. Okay I’m just going to cut right to the chase. Ricky Rubio, the suave yet shady looking stranger that tries to hit on your girl and sell you shitty drugs while you’re on a European vacation went all the way off last night. The sneaky Spaniard messed around and got a triple double with 26-11-10 along with two steals and a block en route to a Utah win giving them a 2-1 edge in the series. His 19 first half points helped the Jazz withstand a few spurts from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His ability to repeatedly snake through the defense and get into his spots at will and create was an all game thing. Although his three ball wasn’t falling (only 2 of 9 last night) he was 7 of 9 on all other attempts. Defensively he was on point as usual and last night he reminded us in a few instances that he possess one of the best court visions in the league hands down. His ability to constantly find guys is no small feat considering that Utah is a very active off ball team. With Rubio this dangerous Utah becomes a considerably harder out and given Russell “Hustle” Westbrook’s postgame comments regarding Rubio’s performance I think it’s safe to say that it’s not really a secret at this point.
2. The Jazz used the second part of the third quarter to create distance as they began the final frame with a 14 point advantage. It was then when Donovan Mitchell stepped it up after having trouble getting into the flow of the game beforehand. Mitchell scored 10 of his 22 in the fourth to ward the Thunder off and help deliver the convincing win. It was also great having “Jingling Joe” Ingles back at it. While his defense has been solid throughout the series his shot hasn’t shown up. That definitely changed last night. Ingles went for 21 points including 5 of 10 leading an impressive team effort for m beyond the arc as Utah hit half of their triples on 28 attempts. His defense didn’t wane in light of him finding his stroke as the chippiness between he and Paul “The Player Formerly Known As Playoff P” George clearly proves.
As always with the Jazz this was a total team effort. And there’s probably not more of a galvanizing force on this team than their defense. Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert was once again the anchor of this. The double double machine finished with 18 and 12 with a block once again winning the big man showdown with Steven “Big Funaki” Adams. Derrick Favors scored a very efficient 11 points to go with 5 boards. Although it wasn’t a great statistical game Favors presentce was key either as an option or decoy when OKC was forced to go small. Free agent rookie Royce O’Neale defended beautifully and chipped in 7 points including two from downtown while Jae Crowder served as the junkyard dog doing all of the dirty work.
After many posed doubts about how well the Jazz’s communal philosophy following their game 1 defeat it appears they are showing us through these last two contests that this is a viable way to play postseason basketball. I’ve been sold for months on it honestly. Question is are you?
3. You know, you don’t want to hit the panic button just yet but if I’m OKC I’m thinking about it pretty damned hard right now. I know I sound like a broken record by now but it’s all about consistency with this group in all facets. Game to game, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. Last night in particular allowing two 9-0 runs in the third quarter was essentially a coffin nail given the OKC 3s difficulties in the fourth quarter which continued last night. There is no excuse I REPEAT no excuse for the reigning league MVP to go scoreless with ZERO shot attempts in the fourth quarter of a playoff game in which they’re trailing by double digits for most of the duration. There’s no reason to continue to allow Utah to run at their pace (a glacial one) with a lead with out pressuring them to move faster and force more possessions. It was another breakdown at a time when they really can’t afford to have one.
Paul George once again gave it his best go of it with 23 points on 7 of 16 from the field. If there’s been anyone that has been to rattle Utah’s cage at all it’s been George. It definitely hasn’t been Westbrook who damn near had another triple double with 14-11-9 but once again his inability to get to the line has rendered him much less effective as he only had four attempts while going 5 of 17 from the field. Carmelo Anthony had a decent showing with 14 points on 6 of 10 but it’s telling that even with his hot hand he was only able to get off 10 attempts when OKC desperately needed his shooting. Steven Adams was almost non-existent as he battled foul trouble as well as Gobert producing only 8 points and 2 boards.
It’s been a tough season for Patrick “Pat Patt” Patterson. Initially thought to be one of the sneaky best free agent signings of the summer he spent most of the season coming back from a knee injury that more or less made him so easily available on the market and trying to find his role on the bench. Last night he gave a glimpse into what OKC may be getting soon. His 8 points on perfect shooting obviously wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the game but it he did visibly make Utah uncomfortable when he started hitting. 6’10” dudes that can nail threes and move pretty well have a tendency to do that. Raymond “Fat Felt” Felton was great off of the bench with 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting including 4 of 5 from deep. Sound great right? IT IS! But as I’ve said before (broken record alert) Utah will gladly give Felton 14 if it means they can hold Westbrook to 14 as well. Let that sink in for a minute. Oklahoma City most certainly should.