Quin Snyder

USA Today Images

The Jazz Way

Truthfully, Game 4 started as soon as Game 3 ended.

April 24, 2018 - 1:10 pm
Categories: 

The Houston Rockets turned in one of the most incredible quarters in playoff history, but I’m not starting there today. Instead, I’m starting in Salt Lake City, Utah. And the fact that I’m doing that, instead of the Rockets and their 50 point third quarter, tells you just how insane Game 4 of Thunder-Jazz game was. 

Truthfully, Game 4 started as soon as Game 3 ended. Game 3 was when Ricky Rubio went for 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. And right after Game 3 was when Russell Westbrook declared that "He made some shots. Too comfortable. But I'm gonna shut that bleep off next game though. Guarantee that."

Playoff guarantees are pretty tired, but when a guy like Russell Westbrook makes a playoff guarantee, I’m listening, because there’s a damn good chance he’s going to do everything in his power to back it up. And he did. Picking up Rubio full court, dropping into a defensive stance, and cranking up the intensity. You knew he would. Guarantee made. And guarantee fulfilled: Rubio had 13 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. One problem.

Well, actually, a lot of problems. Starting with the fact that Westbrook had four fouls in the first half. And that while Rubio had 13 points, the rest of the Jazz had 100, Utah won by 17, and now they’re up for 3-1 in the series. That’s a huge, huge problem for OKC.  

But now Russ says that Rubio this is not a thing anymore: "It's not about me and him. Let's get past that. We're done with that."

I’m starting to think it never should’ve been a thing to begin with, because while everyone was focused on Rubio’s 13, Donovan Mitchell had 33, Joe Ingles had 20, including a flurry just before halftime, Rudy Gobert had 16, and Derrick Favors had 13. 

But Russ v. Ricky wasn’t the only drama. There were plenty of scuffles and shoves, like Ingles hitting a three and getting into Paul George immediately. There were seven technicals. One Jae Crowder elbow to the chin of Steven Adams. One ejection and one Willard Mitt Romney taunting from the stands. 

Yes, a former presidential candidate rocking a David Stockton jersey, taunting a former MVP. That was the moment this series officially went off the rails and the Thunder officially went on the ropes.

Oklahoma City didn’t bring in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to go down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz in the first round. And they sure as hell didn’t bring them in to LOSE in the first round. But that’s what they’re looking at, and that’s why they’re in big trouble.

I doubt getting bounced in the first round helps OKC’s case with Paul George, but he might have already made up his mind about staying. And even if he bounces, the whole thing was worth it because they signed Russ to an extension. But none of those guys are there to get run out of the building by a rookie phenom and some serious team defense. But that’s exactly what’s happening. Because in April, the Oklahoma City Thunder with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony still don’t know who they are. And they’ve just run into a team that knows damn well who it is. 

Donovan Mitchell is playing like a dude possessed, Ricky Rubio is so far into Russ’s head that Russ is now saying it isn’t personal anymore, WHEN EVERYTHING IS PERSONAL WITH THAT GUY and they’re dee-ing up like they always do: with incredible team defense and Rudy Gobert killing the game in the paint. And Quin Snyder is proving yet again he doesn’t get nearly the love he deserves as a coach. The guy lost Gordon Hayward to free agency and didn’t even flinch. They barely took a step back in a brutal Western Conference and now they’re one game away from knocking OKC the hell out. 

In other words, the Jazz are doing what the Jazz do. They’re playing within themselves. As Donovan Mitchell said, "We always say the strength of our team is the strength of our team. I said this morning we're not really worried about one individual comment. I think if we get caught up in that it takes us out of our own game and our play showed tonight that we really just focused on each other and made the right plays when we needed to."

That’s not a 15-year vet. Or a 10-year vet talking. That’s not some guy who’s been through one playoff series after another. That’s a rookie who just finished playing his fourth playoff game ever. He’s barely 21 years old. I have no idea how to explain that other than to say that this is the Jazz way. Like the Patriot Way, but the Jazz way. Which means the team is tough, mentally and physically. And OKC is in deep to a team without nearly the same level of hype or alleged star power. And the OKC Big Three could be one and done. One series and done. One year and done.

And yes, Thunder fan, now would be a helluva good to panic. You’re down 3 games to 1 and your MVP, for maybe the first time ever, is running his mouth and not backing it up.  And telling us he’s not even about that, when that’s exactly what he was about. Quin Snyder is a genius, so that Donovan Kid had better coach these dudes up.