The Utah Jazz had a 25 point lead in the 3rd quarter of a game 5 closeout game on the road. They were about to sail through the first round by embarrassing a so-called super team by winning 4 straight games. Until they didn’t. Russell Westbrook went crazy and saved the OKC Thunder’s season for another night. It was a meltdown of epic proportions for Utah. One of the worst in NBA history actually. The reigning MVP got hot and the Jazz never regained composure. Quin Snyder and the guys will learn and ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Last night does not mean that the sky is falling. This is the 2017-2018 Utah Jazz team we are talking about. The same team that completed one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in NBA history. They were left for dead at 19-28 and proceeded to rip off 19 wins in 25 games. They had no business being in the playoffs yet here they are. They battled, they fought, and they overcame. They won’t let something like last night happen again.
If this group learned anything this season (other than Rudy’s value and Donovan’s talent), it’s the ability to overcome adversity. And this is no different. As Bill Belichick would say, “They’re on to Game 6.” Plus, look what it took for the Thunder to even get back in that game last night:
From 8:30 in the 3rd quarter and onward, the Thunder outscored the Jazz 61-28.— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) April 26, 2018
Russell Westbrook and Paul George scored or assisted on all 61 of OKC's points.
That duo shot 20-35 (57%) from the field, 6-8 from 3, and 8-9 from the line over that stretch. Westbrook shoots 31% from 3 on the season and had to hit 5 straight by himself to drag the Thunder back into it. I mean, look at the box score. Russ ended with 45 points and Paul George scored 34 (the next highest on the team was Melo with 97). That is 74% of OKC’s points for the night. That’s not going to happen again.
Another big contributing factor was the foul trouble that Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors got themselves into. I agree that some of them were phantom calls and changed the course of the game; however, Rudy himself said after the game that he shouldn’t have had the first 3 fouls in the first place. He is the key to the Utah Jazz defense.
The Jazz with Rudy Gobert on the floor in Game 5: 89.9 defensive rating— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 26, 2018
The Jazz with Rudy Gobert off the floor in Game 5: 133.5 defensive rating
Rudy has rarely been in foul trouble this season and knows how vital he is to this team’s success. Unfortunately he got into foul trouble, allowing the Thunder to attack the rim and open up the outside to claw their way to victory. Rudy won’t let that happen again.
There’s a reason the Utah Jazz were able to not only get into the playoffs, but nearly won the division and had the 3rd seed this year. They have lost back-to-back games only once since January 20th. It took some time for them to put everything together this season, but once they found it they have been tough to defeat. After losing last night, they aren’t going to let that happen again.
The Utah Jazz have also been in a similar position before. I get this is a different year and a different team, but looking back on the history of the Utah Jazz can give you hope. Last year the team built a 3-2 series lead heading into a Game 6 at home. They let that one slip and had to go on the road to close out the series. They did so in convincing fashion and the rest is history.
For a more similar situation, The 2008 Utah Jazz were in a 4-5 matchup against the Houston Rockets. The Jazz were the 5-seed back then as well and also built a 3-1 series lead. It looked like they might make quick work of the Rockets, but then Game 5 happened. The Rockets played Utah off the court and won running away 95-69. The chatter at the time was similar. “Did the Rockets just flip the series... Houston has all of the momentum now... Maybe the Rockets are about to win this series after all...”
Utah went back home to Salt Lake to finish the job by defeating the Rockets 113-91. The momentum hadn’t been shifted, the Jazz just had a bad game. They came back home and took care of business.
Last night was an unfortunate one for the Jazz. They built a big lead and should have won, but got shellshocked by an MVP having an MVP-type night. It took every ounce of that effort for Russ to rescue the Thunder from the jaws of defeat, and the Jazz were unable to respond. Utah returns home tomorrow night for Game 6 with a still-commanding 3-2 series lead. FiveThirtyEight still gives the Jazz a 79% chance of winning the series, which is similar to the historical trends of the NBA playoffs. After an off-half that let the Thunder regain some hope in this series, the Jazz aren’t going to let last night happen again. I remain with my original prediction of the Jazz winning this series in 6.