Playoff Preview: Oklahoma City vs. Utah

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 48-34

Offense: No. 10

Defense: No. 10

Head Coach: Billy Donovan (12-11 playoff record)

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2017-18 Leaders (SUPERGLOOO season total in parentheses): Russell Westbrook 30.70 (1863.75); Steven Adams 24.98 (1294.02); Paul George 20.33 (1224.16); Carmelo Anthony 16.58 (863.63); Jerami Grant 15.30 (524.98).

Prolific Playoff Performers (SUPERGLOOO career total in parentheses): Russell Westbrook 28.85 (1976.23); Carmelo Anthony 18.93 (1016.82); Nick Collison 19.60 (625.57).

The 5,000 Minute Rule: Russell Westbrook 28,993 minutes with Thunder; Nick Collison 20,139; Steven Adams 10,902; Andre Roberson 7318.

STARTERS MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 F Paul George  36.6  21.9  5.7  3.3  2.0 steals per game
 G Russell Westbrook  36.4  25.4  10.;1  10.3  1.8 steals per game
 C Steven Adams  32.7  13.9  9.0  1.2  .630 true shooting %
 F Carmelo Anthony  32.1  16.2  5.8  1.3  .357 3-point %
 G Corey Brewer  16.8  5.3  2.1  0.9  1.1 steals per game

Key: MPG minutes per game; PPG points per game; RPG rebounds per game; APG assists per game; SUPERGLOOO metric derived from Player Efficiency Rating, along with On and On-Off plus-minus ratings; * denotes injured player may miss playoff games.

KEY RESERVES MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 F Jerami Grant  20.3  8.4  3.9  0.7  .607 true shooting %
 G Raymond Felton  16.6  6.9  1.9  2.5  .352 3-point %
 C Patrick Patterson  15.5  3.9  2.4  0.7  .386 3-point %
 G Alex Abrines  15.1  4.7  1.5  0.4  .380 3-point %
 F Josh Huestis  14.2  2.3  2.3  0.3  1.6 blocks per game
 G Terrence Ferguson  12.5  3.1  0.8 0.3  .612 2-point %
 G Andre Roberson*  26.6  5.0  4.7  1.2  1.6 steals per game

5. Utah Jazz

Record: 48-34

Offense: No. 15

Defense: No. 2

Head Coach: Quin Snyder (4-7 playoff record)

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2017-18 Leaders (SUPERGLOOO season total in parentheses): Donovan Mitchell 21.45 (1178.86); Rudy Goberg 26.83; Derrick Favors 2045 (917.27); Joe Ingles 16.68 (895.59); Ricky Rubio 17.28 (811.21).

Prolific Playoff Performers (SUPERGLOOO career total in parentheses): None.

The 5,000 Minute Rule: Derrick Favors 13,752; Rudy Gobert 9330; Joe Ingles 7794; Alec Burks 7745.

STARTERS MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 G Donovan Mitchell  33.4  20.5  3.7  3.7  1.5 steals per game
 C Rudy Gobert  32.4  13.5  10.7  1.4  2.3 blocks per game
 F Joe Ingles  31.4  11.5  4.2  4.8  1.1 blocks per game
 F Derrick Favors  28.0  12.3  7.2  1.3  1.1 blocks per game
 G Ricky Rubio  29.3  13.1  4.6  5.3  1.6 steals per game

Key: MPG minutes per game; PPG points per game; RPG rebounds per game; APG assists per game; SUPERGLOOO metric derived from Player Efficiency Rating, along with On and On-Off plus-minus ratings; * denotes injured player may miss playoff games.

KEY RESERVES MPG PPG RPG APG NOTE
 F Jae Crowder  26.1  9.7  3.4  1.2  0.8 steals per game
 G Dante Exum  16.8  8.1  1.9  3.1  .536 2-point %
 G Royce O’Neale  16.7  5.0  3.4  1.4  .356 3-point %
 G Alec Burks  16.5  7.7  3.0  1.1  .863 free throw %
 F Jonas Jerebko  15.3  5.8  3.3  0.6  .414 3-point %
 C Ekpe Udoh  12.9  2.6  2.4  0.8  1.2 blocks per game
 G Raul Neto  12.1  4.5  1.2  1.8  .404 3-point %
 F Tony Bradley  3.2  0.9  1.2  0.1  9 games
 G Thabo Sefolosha*  21.2  8.2  4.2  0.9  1.2 steals per game

 

One by one, the Utah Jazz has gotten stronger all year, raising to a crescendo in February-March-April when the Jazzmen went 26-6 collectively to become one of the NBA’s hottest teams today. The Oklahoma City Thunder experienced their hot streak, too, albeit moreso during the middle of the season. Yet nonetheless they find themselves here trying to defend rightfully earned territory against quite a frightful opponent.

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The Jazz is really peaking on all cylinders, playing the NBA’s second-best defense led by Everybody’s Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, who is finally blending in sync with fellow big Derrick Favors. For years, the two never quite meshed, but now they’ve become the perfect big-man combo, thanks in part to the complementary bigs play of Ekpe Udoh, Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder—all huge additions throughout the past two seasons in their own right.

If there is an area that OKC is lacking it is backup bigs, where Coach Billy Donovan somehow has decided to make Patrick Patterson a backup center. The move has not gone well, no matter which player combo you look at. One has to wonder why true center Dakari Johnson is not better utilized, but I digress. If Donovan continues to play Patterson out of position, not only does he waste 2Pat’s true stretch 4 talents, but he opens the sieve to a porous defense that normally does not exist in Oklahoma City (just look at any Patterson-at-center example for proof).

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As a result, the Thunder are going to need Russell Westbrook at his attacking best because the Thunder cannot win a defensive series. Yet if Westbrook gets Gobert or others in foul trouble, then and only then can OKC succeed (Utah ranks top 5 in taking away three-pointers and top 5 in limiting two-point percentage). We hate to appear so pessimistic on behalf of the OKC D, but it really is a tale of two defenses whenever standout center Steven Adams hits the bench. And Utah’s reserves are not to be trifled with, whether we’re talking about Royce O’Neale, Jonas Jerebko or Dante Exum, who backup the dynamic duo of Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio as well as anyone could hope.

The Thunder have a pretty dynamic duo of their own in Westbrook and fellow All-Star Paul George, who have more playoff experience than any Jazzman. That type of experience is the one driving factor that can swing the favor back OKC’s way. It is totally dependent on big-time players like the triple-doubling Westbrook, the LeBron-challenger Paul George, the giant-killer Steven Adams and the USA Basketball Olympian Carmelo Anthony. If the those Thunder can play big, they can be big. Otherwise, look for the hot Jazz to just get even hotter as they heat up for round two.

JAZZ IN 6.