Oklahoma City has been struggling in the playoffs no doubt. Utah Young roster including (my rookie of the year) Donovan Mitchell who's been amazing. After Game 3 Russell Westbrook said he was gone "shut that shit down" referring to Ricky Rubio getting easy buckets.
As Westbrook walked to the bench with a minute left, smoke fuming off of him as even Mitt Romney taunted him court side with four fingers in the air, much like in Game 3 the Jazz closed the half with a massive boost of momentum.
Westbrook accomplished his mission, at least statistically, in the first half. Rubio had his "s---" shut down with just six points on 1-of-5 shooting. But it was the gamesmanship by Rubio that bested Westbrook, using Westbrook's hyper-charged energy against him to put him into foul trouble and neutralize his aggressiveness. After the fourth foul, Westbrook just wasn't the same player as he protected against his fifth.
And while the Jazz opened up the game with a dynamite third quarter (outscoring OKC 12-2 in the first three minutes), everything changed in those closing minutes of the first half. Utah has a 3-1 lead after a 113-96 win, and the Thunder are officially on the ropes.
Utah generates better, more consistent shots from efficiency areas, while the Thunder basically cross their fingers their superstar players have good nights. And even when the looks have been clean -- like they were for Carmelo Anthony-- they aren't going down. Per ESPN Stats and Info, the Thunder went 22 minutes and 9 seconds of game time without recording an assist (in between made baskets at 10:33 of 2nd quarter and 0:24 of 3rd quarter). In that span, they attempted nine shots with an assist opportunity compared to 27 attempts that didn't have an assist opportunity.
Westbrook hasn't looked himself, and played with black kinetic tape all over his upper body. Billy Donovan says he's fine, or at least he hasn't been told of any injury, and Westbrook has fully participated in practices and shoot-arounds. But he struggled shooting again, hitting 6-of-17 from the floor for 20 points, plus 10 rebounds and 3 assists. Paul George finished with 32 on 9-of-21, but with Carmelo Anthony hitting just 5-of-18, including 0-of-6 from 3, and with the Thunder unable to produce consistent stops, that wasn't cutting it. It's not a coincidence Westbrook finished with three assists, and didn't have any of the first quarter.
There was so much talk of the Jazz's playoff experience, or lack thereof, but in Game 4, it was the Thunder who unwound. The intensity in the opening six minutes was off the charts, with technical fouls and light scuffles breaking out, but Utah held its poise while the Thunder took hurried shots and picked up tough fouls. Joe Ingles (20 points) lit the fuse with a flurry of 3s in the first half, and rookie Donovan Mitchell (33 points on 13-of-28 shooting) threw the closing haymakers.