What a series this is going to be!
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell vs. Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun!
Westbrook led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the fourth seed in the Western Conference and just finished his second straight season averaging a triple-double to become the first player in NBA history to record such a feat.
The Utah Jazz, who many expected not to even be in playoff contention after Gordon Hayward left, nearly had the No. 3 seed before falling to Portland in the season finale. Still, the Jazz finished the season winning 30 of 37 games to end the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (48-34)
Playoff series schedule
Game 1 in OKC: Sunday, April 15, 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 2 in OKC: Wednesday, April 18, 8 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Game 3 in Utah: Saturday, April 21, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4 in Utah: Monday, April 23, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 5 in OKC: TBA (if necessary)
Game 6 in Utah: TBA (if necessary)
Game 7 in OKC: TBA (if necessary)
Season series: Thunder 3-1
Thunder projected starting lineup: G Russell Westbrook; G Corey Brewer; F Carmelo Anthony; F Paul George; C Steven Adams
Jazz projected starting lineup: G Ricky Rubio; G Donovan Mitchell; F Joe Ingles; F Derrick Favors; C Rudy Gobert
The rise is attributed to rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell who stole the spotlight despite being the No. 13 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Not only has Mitchell been named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December, January, February, March and April, but also broke the NBA rookie record for most 3-pointers made in a season.
To top it off, Mitchell won the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest and has become one of the youngest/biggest stars in the NBA.
There is plenty of star power on both sides in this matchup, however, the Thunder have arguably the most offensive firepower with Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony leading the way.
However, that star power has struggled compared to what most expected out of OKC after the team landed the two All-Star players to compliment Westbrook. Will the veterans be able to turn it on in the playoffs? We’re about to find out.
Throw out the records
OKC won the season series 3-1, including double-digit victories in the final two games of the regular season. So the Thunder should have an easy time against the Jazz right?
As the famous Lee Corso always says, “not so fast my friend.”
Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who is the favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, missed two of those games. Both teams also played all four games before Christmas and a lot has changed since that time.
While OKC has stayed nearly the same, the Jazz have drastically changed.
Donovan Mitchell was still introducing himself to the league, Gobert has come back strong from his injury earlier in the season. Ricky Rubio has worked through his transition to the new system and Jae Crowder has been a huge bright spot for the Jazz since the organization traded for him in February.
The Jazz have been on of the hottest teams in the NBA as they finished the regular season on a 30-7 roll. OKC hasn’t faced this new Jazz team, but don’t count out Westbrook from turning it up a notch in the playoffs either.
Second chance points all comes down to rebounding and this series may very well come down to who can control the boards.
Since Gobert returned from his injury in January, the Jazz led the NBA in defensive rebound percentage (.808). At the same time, the Thunder finished the regular season with the league’s highest offensive rebound percentage (.277).
The Jazz rank No. 2 in the league in terms of fewest second chance points allowed, meanwhile, OKC, led the NBA in second-chance points scored. Something will have to give in this series.
Pick: Jazz In 7
Both teams are very evenly matched which is expected from a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. While the Thunder certainly have more star power, it didn’t serve them as well as they’d though during the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have chemistry with each player knowing what his role is and how it fits in Quin Snyder’s system. The team is unselfish and has found its style of basketball which most teams haven’t been able to stop over the past two months. The chess match between Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Thunder coach Billy Donovan should be interesting in a series that is truly a toss up. However, we’re giving a slight edge to Utah. Jazz in 7!