Oklahoma City walked away with a 116-108 victory in game one of their opening round playoff series against Utah. While the margin of victory was only eight points, you could easily argue that the game wasn’t that close. Still though, I wouldn’t expect either bench to change their game plans.
⚡️Game 2’s coming pic.twitter.com/DknvUehLq5
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 18, 2018
What Utah Wants To Do
Force the Thunder to play outside the paint. The Jazz got OKC to do exactly what they wanted them to do on Sunday afternoon. They just didn’t expect Playoff P to show up and shoot out of his mind (8-11 from 3-point range). Still though, Utah is going to hedge their bets that the Thunder won’t be able to do it again. What they can live with is mid-range and outside jump shots. What they can’t live with is Russell Westbrook attacking the basket and Steven Adams getting involved in the pick-and-roll. If Paul George makes it rain again then it was just ment to be.
Get all of the rebounds. Second chance points can be a game changer and the Jazz realize that. With Oklahoma City’s hot shooting on Sunday there weren’t a lot of defensive rebounds to go after but Utah still got beaten on the boards by a slim margin. There are more weapons in the OKC arsenal than in Utah’s so the Jazz are hoping to limit the Thunder to one-shot possessions.
Find Donovan Mitchell some help. For everything that Paul George was for the Thunder, in Game One, Ricky Rubio was not for the Jazz. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though. Rubio attempted 18 shots on Sunday and he missed 13 of them.
The Jazz aren’t going to push the pace so they’re going to have to find a second scorer in the half court offense. Look for them to work the ball into Rudy Gobert a little more frequently and try to get Joe Ingles going as well.
What Oklahoma City Wants To Do
Remain hot from outside. In a perfect world this is all that Oklahoma City needs to do. Look for them to test the waters here and see if there’s a hot hand from long-range. If there is then I would expect them to ride with it like they did on Sunday.
Attack the rim. Regardless of if the Thunder are making outside shots or not this is a must for two reasons. First, its the best way to find open shooters in the corners. Westbrook is so aggressive when he attacks that he sucks the defense in with him. The result of that is open shooters in the corners.
Secondly, it puts pressure on Gobert to stay out of foul trouble. Oklahoma City benefited from the big man picking up his fourth personal in Game One and will look to get him rung up again with fouls in Game Two. You can’t do that without attacking him though.
Keep Rubio off balance. OKC did a great job of this on Sunday, forcing the Jazz point guard into a miserable shooting night (27% from the floor) and forcing him to commit three turnovers. Look for the Thunder to continue to pressure him.
The Big Question
Is Westbrook OK with someone else being the hero? Of course he is, right? Right? Yeah, I’m not convinced either. I know everyone wants him to be but the reality is that this has been his team for far too long and he has the tendency to push things a bit to the crazy side in order to maintain his status as being “the guy”. Maybe Playoff Russ will bring a different attitude but the closing minutes of Game One have me wondering just a little bit.