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Ricky Rubio vs. Russell Westbrook: What Happened?

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The Thunder were playing well...until they weren’t. What role did Russell Westbrook’s guarantee play?

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Russ vs. Ricky

So, how’d the whole “I’m gonna shut that s*** down” thing go?

Russ did a decent job of keeping his word in the first half, limiting Rubio to a steal, a handful of free throws, and a couple assists. Those handful of free throws were important, though, because they all came from Russ, who finished the half with three fouls, including a tech. Interestingly, though it was after an adjustment by Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan that really made the wheels fall off. Instead of guarding Rubio, Westbrook switched onto Utah Jazz star Joe Ingles at the beginning of the third quarter, and these things happened:

Sequence One: Lob to Derrick Favors

In this set, Corey Brewer is guarding Ricky Rubio, and Russ is looking on from his position with Joe Ingles. Ricky runs around a Derrick Favors pick, towards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

Favors rolls towards the hoop, and Ricky lobs it to him. Westbrook starts to think about helping, realizing that the ball isn’t going to Joe, but it’s too late.

Sequence 2: Ricky for Three!

First, Ricky Rubio starts out a few feet to the left of the three-point elbow, guarded by Pushoff P. Joe Ingles is in the corner, marked by Russell Westbrook.

Next, Ricky runs Paul George off of a Derrick Favors screen, leaving Joe in the corner and Russ in space. Now Russ has a choice to make: he can either help Carmelo Anthony, whom he knows is a weak defender, or he can stay on Joe Ingles, a dangerous three-point threat.

Russ elects to stick with Joe, who receives a pass from Ricky near the right-side three-point elbow.

Now Joe is in the paint with Favors, PG, Russ, and Steven Adams, but his eyes are on Gobert, who is moving towards the left block.

Joe and Rudy play keep-away in the paint for a couple seconds...

Then Joe kicks the ball out to a wide-open Ricky Rubio, who Carmelo Anthony has left completely alone, and it results in a made three-point basket.

Sequence 3: Lob to Rudy Gobert

Same spot. Joe and Russ are in the corner, Ricky up top with Corey Brewer.

Ricky gets a pick from Derrick Favors, and Ricky runs towards Paul George and Steven Adams. Russ is left out in space with Joe Ingles.

Adams moves up to help as Ricky blows by Brewer. Melo has a decision to make: stay with Rudy or assist Adams, who is too slow to guard the speedy guard. (spoiler: they’re both too slow) Pushoff P stays with Donovan Mitchell.

Now there are four Thunder defenders keyed on Rubio and Favors, while Rudy is left all alone in the paint.

Rudy dunks, and the TNT commentators remark that the Thunder have “come unglued.”

Sequence 4: Ricky Makes a Midrange Shot

This one starts with Ricky and Donovan leading a break.

Ricky slows it down, curls to the right side, and is fouled by Paul George (no-call). The Thunder defense isn’t set yet.

Paul George, having overcorrected, is left behind, and the other Thunder defenders can’t recover. Ricky drains the jumper.

Ricky Rubio finished with a line of 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists on a lackluster 4-12 shooting. So was he “shut down?” Honestly, Russ did a pretty good job on him, but the other players more than picked up the slack.

Speaking of Westbrook, get a load of Colin Cowherd’s take on his career with the Thunder to date. It’s brutal.

I’m not crying. You’re crying. Seriously, this is one of the coolest off-court moments in the past several years. Good on ya, Jazz fans. We’re experiencing a Jazz renaissance here in Salt Lake City, and it’s come years before anyone thought it would.

This video is so cool. It really is amazing that athletes from so many different places have united to become a dominating basketball force in the last few months.

A few more fun tweets:

I was vaguely positive about Ricky Rubio coming to the Jazz, and pretty negative in December when he looked like he’d never touched a basketball before. But man, I am so glad he’s found his groove, and I hope he stays on the team for a long time. How can you not love this player?

I miss DeMarre Carroll. He was one of the few bright spots during the Ty Era.

#takenote of Reggie Miller. RIP his mentions, though.