- When: Wednesday, 18 April 2018 at 7:00 pm CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
- TV: NBATV/FSOK
- Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
- Line: OKC -4.5 | O/U – 207.5
Five Things For This Game
1. Again, Injuries
After an incredible Thunder playoff debut, Paul George suffered a hip contusion in the 2nd quarter on a hard fall. He dusted the fall off and went on to play most of the game after that. But you could tell the injury started bothering him late in the 2nd half and he had to be taken out with about 2 minutes left in the game to receive treatment on the sidelines.
After practice yesterday, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said George wasn’t able to do much in practice today. Said there was no contact for PG. George has already said he will play, and the Thunder did not list him on the injury report for Tuesday.
Corey Brewer said he was playing at about 80% in Game 1 and has sat out some portions of practice over the past two days. I see no reason why Brewer won’t play in Game 2.
As for Utah, Donovan Mitchell suffered a foot/toe contusion that hobbled him for much of the 4th quarter. He missed a game against the Thunder earlier this season with a bad big toe on the same foot. He is listed as questionable for Game 2.
2. Room For Improvement
For as good as the Thunder played, a lot of mistakes were masked by George’s perimeter fireworks. They committed 17 turnovers, allowed 50 points in the paint, gave up 19 points off turnovers, and allowed Utah to start and finish the game off hot. Don’t get me wrong: It was a good game. But it was akin to inspecting a nice house. On the outside, that 2100 square foot house looks like a beaut. But when you go inside with a house inspector, you realize the air conditioner is about to give out, the laundry is located in the garage, and there are foundation issues. Oklahoma City can play better and they will need to play better in Game 2.
3. Don’t Repeat History
Remember how it felt when the Thunder won their first regular season game against the New York Knicks? Well, honestly, I got that same feeling after Game 1. Almost like, “there’s no way anyone is going to beat us if Paul George plays like that.” But what happened in the second game of the season? The Thunder went to Utah and were blown out.
The Thunder have a habit of feeling themselves when they do something good. In November, they beat the Golden State Warriors in blowout fashion and then went on to lose their next 3 games. They beat the Houston Rockets on Christmas day and then went on to lose 2 of their next 3 games to finish out the calendar year. In February, the Thunder blew out the Warriors in Oracle and then got blown out themselves by the Lakers two nights later.
Notice a pattern? It’s a thing with this team. The Thunder need to enter Game 2 with the mindset that Utah is a major threat. Or they need to just look at a picture of Joe Ingles. That’ll get anyone upset.
4. Bench Adjustments
During the course of Game 1, the Jazz seemed to unlock something using their reserve guards. With Steven Adams out of the game and Jerami Grant usually occupied with either Rudy Gobert or Jae Crowder (look at that versitility!), Jazz guards Dante Exum and Alec Burks were able to get into the paint, seemingly at will, and score on several occasions in the second half. The Thunder bench was one of the main reasons Oklahoma City won Game 1. But if the Jazz can use their guards as an equalizer, the bench advantage may become null and void for the Thunder.
5. Small-ball Counter
The Jazz use a traditional front court to start off games. Gobert at center and Derrick Favors at power forward. While Gobert played Steven Adams to a virtual draw, Favors struggled with the smaller Carmelo Anthony. While I don’t necessarily expect a starting line-up change in this game, I do expect to see more of Jae Crowder, who has the ability to stick with Anthony on the perimeter, while also giving the offense more space to operate.
This is a pivotal game. The Thunder could take control of the this series as they head to Salt Lake City. Or they could go to Utah tied 1-1, with all the momentum on Utah’s side.