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Live at the Peake: 5 in-house takeaways from the Thunder’s game 1 win over the Jazz

The Thunder opened their playoff series strong, and here is what it looked like up close.

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The energy inside Chesapeake Energy Arena was electrifying in Game 1, as the Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz 118-106 to take a 1-0 series lead. I had the chance to be in the arena, be a part of the energy, and watch this series up close. There were a few major takeaways that I had from Game 1’s victory and they could be critical keys moving forward in this series.

1. Playoff P

Paul George came into the playoffs struggling with his shot and his confidence. He was shooting well under 30% from three and he voiced that ‘something is off.’ However, in Game 1, George came out firing on all cylinders. He was able to easily pick apart Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale on his way to a game-high 38 points. It was an efficient 38 as George nailed 8 of 11 threes and 13 of 20 overall.

The way that George uses screens is even more impressive in person. He is patient, he waits for the right opening and matchup, and then explodes. There were multiple times when O’Neale and Ingles were more worried about the screen than PG. George used this to his advantage and he had his way offensively. When George plays with confidence, there seems to be a little more sauce to the crossover, he shoots the ball with no hesitation, and he shows why he is a 5-time all-star. The Thunder will need a lot more of Playoff P as this series continues.

2. Melo’s effort

This is not Carmelo Anthony’s first go around in the playoffs, but it is his first time back since 2013. Melo has been criticized all season for his isolation-style basketball and his tough-shot taking. In Game 1, Oklahoma City saw an engaged, energetic, do-it-all type of game from Melo. He took 13 shots, scored 15 points, but that was not the most impressive stat from him. Melo also grabbed 7 rebounds, had 3 steals, and 2 blocks. He was all over the floor, hustling for loose balls, fighting for rebounds, making the extra pass, and taking pride on defense. He proved in Game 1 that he can be a valuable piece on the floor even when he is not scoring.

3. Steven Adams vs. Rudy Gobert

The Thunder-Jazz series has interesting matchups across the board, but the most intriguing from Game 1 was the struggle inside between Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert. It was a battle from the start as these two 7-footers pushed, tucked, scratched, and clawed for position whenever a shot went up. Adams had a few opportunities on the block against Gobert, but it was tough for Adams to get a clean look.

The Thunder did a great job of pulling Gobert away from the basket, mostly putting him in pick-and-roll actions. Gobert was not the defensive terror that he has been all season because of that. Adams (12 points and 7 rebounds) and Gobert (14 points and 7 rebounds) battled to a stalemate in Game 1. However, the matchup between Adams and Gobert will be exciting to watch as the series continues.

4. Defense on Ingles and Rubio

The Jazz are led by the rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell, and he was outstanding in Game 1. Mitchell scored 27 points and grabbed 10 boards. However, I thought that a key to this series would be limiting the others, especially Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio.

In Game 1, the Thunder did a great job on both ends against Ingles and Rubio. George guarded Ingles and he was all over him. Ingles did hit the first three of the game, but after that George was glued to him. The Thunder defense forced Mitchell and Rubio to create deep into the shot clock. Mitchell was effective, but Rubio struggled. The Thunder forcing Rubio to shoot threes or contested shots should be viewed as a victory. Rubio took 18 shots and only made five.

On the other end, Rubio was tasked with defending Russell Westbrook, which is tough for anyone on any night, and Ingles had to defend PG. George had Ingles in all sorts of trouble from the start, eventually getting him in foul trouble, and taking him out of the game mentally. Ingles only shot nine shots and had five fouls. The Thunder will need to continue to limit Rubio and Ingles in Game 2.

5. The Bench

There were many questions coming into the series about how Billy Donovan’s rotations would look. The Thunder used Alex Abrines, Jerami Grant, Raymond Felton, Patrick Patterson, and Terrance Ferguson off the bench. The most interesting thing about the bench was how confident they all were. Felton had no issues running the team, Grant continued to show his versatility on both ends, and Patterson was great defensively.

Ferguson was the first player off the bench, along with Abrines, but Ferg got in early foul trouble and it derailed his minutes. Abrines was outstanding in his 21 minutes, scoring 11 crucial points, and nailing three treys. Abrines was a +14 in the plus-minus, Grant was a +12, and Felton was +9. They were the highest on the team, the bench unit will play key roles in this series for the Thunder.

Game 2 will take place on Wednesday night back in the Chesapeake Energy Arena, as the Thunder look to protect home-court, and take a 2-0 series lead. The game will tip at 7:00 CT, it can be seen on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma.