There were a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter and the Thunder season felt like it was basically over. The Utah Jazz had a twenty-five points lead, and they were completely humiliating the home team. There was not a reason in the world to believe that Oklahoma had anything left in its tank or in its heart. Then the unexpected happened. Russell Westbrook decided he wasn’t ready for the offseason, and so he took the team on his shoulders and injected life into it.
In the last twenty minutes of the game, Russell Westbrook outscored the whole Utah Jazz 33-28. Let that sink in for a minute: 33-28.
While Russell Westbrook is the main reason why Oklahoma City was able to win this crazy game, there are other aspects that we need to take into consideration:
- Gobert fouls trouble
For the first time in this series, Oklahoma City was able to put Gobert into fouls trouble. This changed completely the flow of the game. Utah’s defense started to crack, and open spaces appeared everywhere for Westbrook and George to drive in. This is something the Thunder will have to do also in game six: attack Gobert, and try to put him in fouls trouble.
- Coach Donovan adjustments
Last night’s comeback started when Donovan took out Carmelo Anthony and Corey Brewer. Jerami Grant and Alex Abrines took their places, and they delivered on both ends of the floor. Westbrook, George, Abrines, Grant, and Adams is a line up who can spread the floor on offense and can switch everything on defense, especially if the Spanish small forward plays the way he did yesterday.
- Alex Abrines impact
Alex Abrines was phenomenal last night on the defensive end of the floor. While on offense his presence alone helps to spread the floor, his defensive impact was a complete surprise. He did an outstanding job on Donovan Mitchell and against whoever he guarded. Based on last night’s evidence, Abrines and Grant need to play more minutes in game six even if this hurts Carmelo Anthony’s pride.
Game Five has been a crazy rollercoaster, however, the momentum rarely carries over into the next game. In order to bring the series back in Oklahoma City on Sunday, the Thunder have to play better for forty-eight minutes. If Utah will gain a big lead in game six, at home, then I am not sure they will panic one more time and give it up all again. Oklahoma City has the players to compete, it’s up to them to give the 100% effort, they have to give everything left in the tank for one more game. Another important detail: Billy Donovan needs to have the guts to cut Carmelo Anthony’s minutes if his impact on the floor is still zero.
Cover Photo by Layen Murdoch