Thunder vs. Jazz Preview (Game 6)

okc logo at utah jazz

  • When: Friday, 27 April 2018 at 9:30 pm CST
  • Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: Utah -6.5 | O/U – 207

Five Things For This Game

1. Rudy Gobert

Hidden in the euphoria of the epic 25-point comeback win in Game 5 was the fact the Thunder stunk it up offensively when a non-foul troubled Rudy Gobert was in the game. In the first half, when Utah was able to build a 15-point lead, Gobert had a defensive rating of 73.7. After the Thunder’s comeback, Gobert still remained as the only Jazz player with a defensive rating below 100 at 89.9. 

His impact on the defensive end has been the difference in this series. If he’s off the floor, the Thunder look like the team we always expected them to be. When he’s on, the Thunder literally look like rank amateurs. I don’t know if attacking Gobert directly is the answer, but the Thunder have to do something to take him out of the game.

2. Feeling Melo

This has, unfortunately, not been a very good series for Carmelo Anthony. The future Hall of Famer is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on 37% shooting from the field. Making matter worse, he’s shooting just 21% from deep. As someone that was brought in to be a tertiary scorer and perimeter release valve, Anthony has not been very good in either role these playoffs. When the Thunder made their comeback in Game 5, Anthony was on the bench for most of it. When he did get back in the game, after seemingly arguing with coaches to get back in, he missed several defensive assignments and was yanked about 5 minutes later.

As a avid Carmelo fan, this has been tough to see. But Father Time loses to no one and it seems he has his clutches on Melo. But knowing Carmelo Anthony, he’ll remain as professional as possible about this difficult time. In fact, I even think he may have a bit of a resurgent game tonight. Regardless of his eroding skillset, he still has the competitive nature to put up a good game from time to time. With that said, if he comes out in Game 6, and its clear he’s still struggling, head coach Billy Donovan will make the difficult decision to get the best possible lineup on the floor.

3. Perimeter Defense

The Jazz may not be shooting a great percentage from the 3-point line (35.6% – 9th among playoff teams), but they are 2nd in attempts at 32.6 per game. The reason being: they are getting some great looks from deep. The Thunder’s defensive scheme of sinking into the paint backfired on them in the first half of Game 5, leading to 8 three-point makes by the Jazz. Those makes fueled the Jazz’ 15 point half time lead.

4. Forcing Turnovers

The one thing that has been working for the Thunder all series long has been their ability to force turnovers. The Jazz are turning the ball over 15.6 times per game in the playoffs, which has led to the Thunder scoring 21.9% of their points off turnovers (tops among playoff teams). This is something that needs to continue.

5. Can I Get an Encore?

That was an incredible performance by Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Game 5. They were the only two Thunder players in double figures, and scored 79 points between them. It was very reminiscent of the Kevin Durant/Westbrook playoff years.

Conventional wisdom will tell you one of two things: either that performance cannot be replicated or that performance is not sustainable. And being Mr. Pessimist/Pragmatist, I would tend to agree with this assessment. But it’s been proven in this series, that these two guys have to have huge games in order for the Thunder to win. It’s not always pretty. It’s not always efficient. But the Thunder’s superstar duo has to perform in this manner for the team to force a Game 7.

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