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Thunder vs Jazz game 3 preview: OKC must adapt to compete with Utah

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A bad finish at home in game 2 means the Thunder now have to steal one on the road.

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

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Utah Jazz

Series record: 1-1

Time: 9PM CST

Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

Broadcast: ESPN, FSOK


The Thunder come off of a disappointing game 2 loss on their home court to the Jazz, and we are left with several questions that demand answers, some of which include:

  1. What exactly is the Thunder’s best lineup in this series?
  2. What is wrong with Steven Adams, and can he give enough over the next 5 games to keep OKC competitive?
  3. With one outstanding game and one abysmal one, “Playoff P” now bears a striking resemblance to “Regular Season P.” Is this how it’s gonna be from here on out?
  4. If Carmelo’s “Can’t play Kanter” moment doesn’t come soon, then it absolutely will come on April 30th.
  5. Billy Donovan’s defense was shredded by a hobbled Donovan Mitchell in the deciding 4th quarter, where the rookie didn’t make a shot outside of 11 feet, as RK noted. Will Donovan continue his rigid rotations without concern or awareness of who is playing well and who isn’t, or will he respond more quickly before game 3 is out of reach?

I’m sure you all have your own myriad questions, so let’s see them below.

For me, it’s all about Steven Adams and my concern for his health. OKC can win with Adams playing at 80% healthy. They can’t win with him at 50%, and Steven playing with only one useful arm makes it a tough challenge. To me, Adams is the key to the entire series, because he is the only one who can consistently create separation for Westbrook and George, push back against Rudy Gobert at the rim, and give the struggling offense additional opportunities to produce points.

But with Adams at 50% — he’s not screening as well, he can’t use his leverage to box out, he’s struggling to even catch the ball, let alone shoot it, and can’t defend adequately, hence his rapid DQ due to fouls in game 2 — the Thunder are left with a bunch of low percentage, high volume shooters who haven’t effectively learned to play off each other. Without Adams (or a mostly effective Adams) the best offensive sets are more likely to come out of a Westbrook-Jerami Grant pick and roll, or Patrick Patterson motion handoffs that look for corner threes from Alex Abrines.

Is that enough? The answer — maybe. It really depends on how the Thunder choose to defend Mitchell and Ricky Rubio. Clearly there’s a strategy to defending the point guard, and it’s been in place since he came into the league. In game 1, it worked. In game 2, it didn’t, and hurt OKC just enough to send them the loss.

Can OKC win anyway, even if Mitchell continues his strong playoff debut? Yes, as long as they pay better attention to defensive detail. We know that the Jazz are acting deliberately to slow down the Thunder’s fast break, which makes it all the more critical for OKC to increase the number of opportunities for scoring in transition through smart defense and consistent rebounding. Better defensive rotations, attention to personnel that is working/not working, and for the love of Oden, stop switching Melo onto the guards.

The Thunder have argued from the beginning they will win when it matters. Here we go.


Who do you think will win game 3?

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  • 40%
    (145 votes)
  • 59%
    (209 votes)
354 votes total Vote Now