1 Ricky Rubio has been the most underrated player this series
Russell Westbrook boldly proclaimed after Game 3 that he was going to shut down Ricky Rubio’s “sh-t”, such was the Spaniard with the flowing locks’ influence in that contest. Rubio stole the show that night by posting a triple-double in with 26 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists, but in this game his influence was more indirect – he struggled shooting in the first half, going 1 of 6 from the floor, but he drew four fouls from Russell Westbrook, sending OKC’s talisman to the bench.
Westbrook hasn’t played great this series, as he apparently struggles with injury, but it’s still impressive that Rubio has probably won the point-guard matchup. Utah looks like they’ll win too now; OKC need to come back from 3-1 down to progress to the next round, and that seems unlikely even if the last few years have proved that it’s sports most dangerous lead.
2 Carmelo Anthony’s arrival in OKC has been a disaster
Is it a wild hot take to say the OKC Thunder were a more well-balanced team before they traded for Carmelo? The general consensus was that by trading away Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott for Carmelo, the OKC were sacrificing regular season wins in order to have a better chance at playoff success. Either the Thunder would have lost in 4 games without Carmelo, or that assumption was incorrect (which is probably more likely).
In Game 4, Carmelo shot 5 of 18 from the field and 0 of 6 from three, taking his field goal percentage to 37.3% in this series, and 23% from three. Carmelo had a lot of open shots in game 4 and he just hasn’t hit them. An aging superstar brings a lot of problems, as their ego doesn’t quite match their production. For the most part this year he’s been a liability, and that problem’s rearing its head in the playoffs as the Thunder search for a reliable third option on offense. If the Thunder do exit the playoffs in this round, it seems pretty unlikely that we will see the team in its current iteration again next year – that’s probably for the best.
3 A star team beats a team of stars every time
We might be ringing the bell early here, but when the Jazz wins this series, it’s going to be a great opportunity to sing the praises of organizations that work on a team philosophy like the Jazz do. While the Thunder’s descent into hell is highlighting that their status as no more than a platter of inefficient stars who don’t fit together, the Jazz are the team that nobody saw coming. They were destined for the lottery or an 8-seed after Gordon Heyward left – sure, uncovering Donovan Mitchell has changed everything for them, but the Jazz are movers and shakers because of how well rounded and consistent they are (two things the Thunder aren’t).
For the fourth time this series, the Jazz had at least 5 players scoring in double digits (the Thunder have had only two games like that), they’re well-coached, they play team defense, and they have contributors all across the roster. We always hear that superstars win playoff games, but the Jazz is winning as a team, while OKC is the embodiment of individualism.
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