There’s a popular sports metaphor saying that the game of basketball is much like a chess match. That’s all well and good except that the pieces actually have to perform once you put them in place.
In Game One of their series with Utah, Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan unleashed Playoff P as small forward Paul George went off for 36 points (8-11 from three) and seven boards. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder responded in Game Two but upping the pressure inside and crashing the boards.
Taking advantage of an injured Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors combined for 33 points and 31 rebounds, taking advantage of second-chance points and limiting the Thunder to one-shot offensive possessions.
Now, as Game Three approaches, it’s time for Donovan to make his next move. Here’s three things I would expect the Thunder to do.
Deny Ricky Rubio
Utah’s point guard likes to shoot. In Game One he attempted 18 shots from the floor, and in Game Two he put up 16 shots. The difference is that he was making those shots in the second game. Rubio shot 5-of-8 from three-point range on Wednesday night and netted a total of 22 points.
Push The Pace
Utah doesn’t have the horses to run with Oklahoma City and the Thunder have one of the fastest players in the league with Russell Westbrook. Scoring in transition is a natural play here for OKC. If the Thunder run then they eliminate Utah’s ability to get set on defense which would also open up more opportunities to attack the rim.
Shorten The Bench Minutes
OK, this one may be a little bit of a stretch but OKC’s bench hasn’t been fantastic through the first two games. Obviously you have to go to the bench but a Game Three loss would put the Thunder against the ropes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more minutes from the starters and less minutes from the bench as Oklahoma City goes all in to take home court advantage back from the Jazz.