Wednesday night was a classic tale of two halves. What occurred in Game 5 is rather difficult to portray, so I’m going to give you some commentary from inside the mind of a Thunder fan during Wednesday’s chaotic win. I’ll do the best I can to help each and every one of you relive one of the largest comebacks in NBA postseason history.
“This is bad. REAL bad. Nothing is going right. How many corner threes are the Jazz going to hit? Is this legal? Can they do this?”
In the blink of an eye, Utah was off and running. Jae Crowder came off the bench for 15 first-quarter points, as the Jazz hit 7 threes at a 70% clip during the opening frame. It seemed as though they couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, and most shot attempts came off basic PnR action which left the corner three open. Despite Utah’s hot start, the Thunder were still in striking distance, but man, this felt a lot like last year’s Game 5 against Houston early on.
“WOW, OKC’s half-court offense looks really, really bad right now. I wonder how LeBron is doin-, should’ve known... OK, back to the Thunder. Woah, this is really brutal. Are those boos? Those are totally boos. I mean, I guess I can’t blame the fans, this team looks straight up uninterested right now. What a disappointing way to end the season”
Watching the Thunder’s second quarter offense was like some cruel form of basketball torture. It was stagnant, ineffective, and apathetic. Scoring just 12 points in the quarter, it seemed as though OKC was just going to roll over like they did in Games 3 and 4.
It has been a rollercoaster of a season for the Thunder, and from halftime of Game 4 until this point in Game 5, it was arguably in one of its ugliest states. This team faced a variety of problems throughout the year, but every single issue that had surfaced was now being exposed at once, and it really seemed like this was the end of the 2017-18 OKC Thunder. A team led by Russell Westbrook was laying down, and they trailed by 15 at halftime.
At this instant, Thunder Twitter was a dark, dark place.
In some ways, missing the playoffs might've been a better outcome for this Thunder team. A disaster of course, but not the complete public shaming and exposition of every issue they have like this series is.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 26, 2018
This season was a roller coaster for the Thunder and the last 5 games exposed every single issue they’ve had all year long. What an ugly end. Credit to the Jazz, they’re a great team playing really good ball right now— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) April 26, 2018
You know what they say: When you're getting destroyed, the best way to come back is with long, contested 2s off the dribble.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) April 26, 2018
“Damn, I thought halftime would’ve helped, but they still look awful. This is really how we’re going to go out, down 25 with Twitter firing Billy Donovan.”
Utah came out of halfime with a 15-5 run, and suddenly they led by 25.
“OK, deficit is down to 18. That’s not that, bad, right? What am I saying, of course it’s bad, it’s terrible. Wait, did that just say Rudy Gobert has 4 fouls? Did Russ just growl?”
I’m not exactly sure what happened at the 8:21 mark of the third quarter, but Thunder came back to life. With Gobert in foul trouble, OKC became aggressive by attacking the rim and spreading the floor.
“What is going on right now? Where the hell was this an hour ago? Wait a minute, this is really happening, I’ve seen that look on Russ’ face before. OH MY GOD IS THIS WHAT I THINK IT IS?! I don’t want to get my hopes up, but this is shaping up nicely.”
“RUSSELL WESTBROOK. THAT’S MY MVP. HOLY S—-!! We’re all knotted up, baby! I have no idea what’s happening, in fact maybe I’m hallucinating, but I don’t care this is insane! KEEP CARMELO ON THE BENCH FOR ETERNITY!!!”
Russ went into full on takeover mode from here on out. He scored 20 in the third to bring OKC all the way back from a 25-point deficit. The Thunder went on a 32-7 run over the final 9:30 of the quarter, completely flipping this game on its head. Paul George was right alongside Westbrook, finishing the quarter 5/8 FG and scoring 34 points on the night. The two were dominating while Carmelo Anthony sat on the bench, much to the delight of many Thunder fans.
(This run is also a testament to the defensive ability of Rudy Gobert. If you have any doubts about him being the NBA’s defensive player of the year, just watch Wednesday night’s second half. Utah’s performance with and without him is night and day.)
“Wow the ‘Peake is unbelievably loud right now. This is amazing. I still can’t believe we have the lead right now. OH GOD NO, WHY IS MELO COMING BACK IN?!”
“Ok, just hold on here and close this one out. DID ALEX ABRINES JUST SWAT DONOVAN MITCHELL?! AND HIT A THREE?? Look at our two-way superstar go. I’m so proud.”
Abrines was very effective during OKC’s comeback, doing a great job on Mitchell, contesting his shots and forcing him into tough looks. Abrines only scored 3 points, but Abrines gave the Thunder 25 quality minutes in Game 5, staying within the system and demonstrating his refocused defensive abilities. He provided some much needed spacing in addition to solid defense, which was exactly what Billy Donovan was looking for.
With 8:32 left in the third quarter, the Thunder trailed by 25 points. From that moment until the 5:40 mark of the fourth, OKC went on a 50-20 tear, going 18/29 FG and 6/9 3FG. In that time they had just one turnover while forcing seven. From a wider standpoint, the Thunder trailed 71-46 and outscored Utah 61-28 from that point on. The Jazz threatened, but were never able to draw even once OKC grabbed the lead.
Russell Westbrook played all 24 minutes of the second half for the second time in his career, the first being Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors in 2016. He finished the night with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists, joining Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James as the only three players in playoff history to post at least 45-15-5. Another crazy stat? Westbrook outscored the Jazz 33-28 over the final 20:30 of the game.
“Just when I’m ready to abandon this team, they reel me back in, and I’m all for it. Live to fight another day. Russ is a killer, man. thank God I get to root for him.”