Series: Jazz lead, 2-1
Time: 9:30 CST
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena
Broadcast: TNT, FSOK
The Thunder take on the Jazz in game 4 tonight in Utah, and we do feel like we are at a crossroads. Lose again, and OKC is facing a 3-1 deficit and an offseason likely filled with wailing and gnashing of teeth. But win, and win well? Then that sends us hurtling back into the stratosphere of unrealistic expectations (truly a great place to live until you realize it’s a long way down).
The Thunder’s last two losses were not unique to what we’ve experienced this season. Game 2 was a retread of the games lost to teams, both better and worse, who simply had better focus and treated OKC as if they would fall apart in the end. Game 3 was a boomerang to earlier in the season, where the Thunder started cooking early, but then lost their groove in the 2nd and fell apart the rest of the way.
So we’ve been here before.
We also know what the Thunder can do when they feel like their backs are against the wall, as we’ve seen against the Warriors, Raptors, and most recently, the Rockets. There is a burst in there, a focused, predatory burst, that can change the series, and we don’t just know this truth from 2018, but from years past in OKC’s playoff history. It’s there.
But it is dependent on Westbrook. Paul George, as nice a player he can be, is complimentary. Carmelo can make shots and also not make shots. Adams is integral to any form of success the Thunder may have.
But Westbrook is different. He is perhaps maybe one of three or four players in the league who can rev up his engines and control the entirety of a game’s outcome through sheer force of will and beautiful chaos. He can execute, what I’ve referred to in the past, a “Westbrook bomb.” The kind of thing where he goes for 45-15-12, making opposing fan bases think they’ve just witnessed one of the greatest individual performances ever. Last year, we called those “Tuesdays.”
This year, they are few and far between, if at all. I’m not sure why, and the truth is, it’s probably a myriad of issues. If it isn’t in there this year, then we’re going to see the beginning of the end. We’ve come full circle, where “Let Russ be Russ” could be the one thing that turns the tides.
Who do you think will win game 4?
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