The Utah Jazz handled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a chippy Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Russell Westbrook ensured tensions would be high when he guaranteed he would shut down Ricky Rubio in Game 4, with some colorful language used for good measure. While there wasn’t much drama on the scoreboard as the Utah Jazz dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-96 to take a 3-1 series lead, there was plenty of drama throughout the game as emotions ran high.
There were multiple scuffles and six technical fouls handed out, plus a Jae Crowder ejection in the fourth quarter after he delivered an elbow to Steven Adams’ face during a scrum that began with Crowder and Westbrook going at it. It was at that point where it looked like the game was about to get completely out of hand as Westbrook launched himself all over the place, but the fireworks mostly subsided as the clock ran down.
As for Westbrook shutting Rubio down … let’s just say that didn’t happen. Rubio wasn’t as prolific as he was in Game 3, but he ran the Jazz’s offense well and finished with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Westbrook was out of control for much of the night and only recorded three assists as the Thunder notched only 10 assists total and shot 5-for-26 from 3. Westbrook did manage to record 23 points, 14 rebounds and five turnovers.
Utah took a six-point lead at halftime after trailing for much of the first half, then blew the game open in the third quarter with a 9-0 run to start the frame. It never got close after that. Donovan Mitchell put on a show and set a Jazz rookie playoff record with 33 points. Rudy Gobert recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and he did a good job neutralizing Adams.
Paul George had 32 points to lead Oklahoma City, but he shot 2 of 9 from 3 and turned the ball over six times.
Joe Ingles flipped the game. The Jazz struggled offensively in the first half despite plenty of good looks from long range. Ingles missed his first four 3-point attempts as Utah trailed by as many as seven points on several occasions in the opening half.
But the Thunder failed to create meaningful separation, allowing the Jazz to hang around and hang around. Ingles then exploded with three consecutive triples in the final two minutes of the first half to turn the game on its head. Ingles also got the crowd into it with his general scrappiness, especially against Paul George. The Aussie even picked up a technical for trash-talking George.
Ingles finished with 20 points, four assists and three rebounds while knocking down five 3-pointers.
Russell Westbrook was overzealous and Carmelo Anthony was painful. Westbrook didn’t play a smart game. While his aggressiveness can be a good thing, in this one he was too aggressive. He committed four fouls in the first half, all against Rubio, much to the delight of Mitt Romney:
Westbrook should have fouled out as he went wild in the fourth quarter, and the Jazz were lucky he didn’t hurt anybody. Russ has had a real ugly series, and the Thunder don’t have much of a chance when he’s playing like this.
Meanwhile, Melo was simply sad to watch. He had 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting and missed all six of his 3-point attempts. He struggled to finish around the basket as he continues to lose his athleticism in his advanced age. He doesn’t have an assist since Game 1. He gets picked on defensively, with Mitchell especially hunting him out on switches.
If it wasn’t clear all season, Anthony isn’t an impact player in big minutes anymore. He can still offer value because of his scoring ability, but the Thunder are relying on him way too much.
Donovan Mitchell’s finishing is insane. Mitchell’s jumper is a bit erratic, and he was only 4-for-16 from outside the restricted area in Game 4. But he made nine of his 12 shots at the rim, with an array of incredible finishes to his name.
Mitchell’s quickness and explosiveness is off the charts, and his body control is already at an advanced level. He has a bag of tricks worthy of a veteran star, including a devastating spin move like this:
And then there’s this:
Mitchell had numerous other crafty, slithery finishes, but you get the picture. It’s truly amazing that this kid is only a rookie and on the verge of leading the Jazz to the second round.
Mitchell and Co. will look to close this series out in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.