Oklahoma City at Utah
Time: 9 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: UTA -4.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Oklahoma City Thunder won Game 1. The Utah Jazz bounced back and snatched Game 2. Now the series shifts to Salt Lake City for a crucial Game 3, and the Jazz are 4.5-point favorites on its home court.
Utah and rookie Donovan Mitchell continue to surprise us with their resiliency, so to see NBA oddsmakers favoring the Jazz at home is no surprise, but will Russell Westbrook manage to deflate the Jazz in Game 3 and win an all-important swing game?
Westbrook missed shootaround this morning due to the league randomly drug testing him, in the news that no one really cares about. The dynamic point guard has averaged a triple-double the last two seasons and is arguably the most well-rounded guard since Oscar Robertson himself. In Game 2, Russ had 19 points and 13 assists but fell one rebound shy of a triple-double again with nine boards.
The Thunder shot just 40 percent from the field and no player scored more than Westbrook’s 19. The Jazz was just as cold at 41 percent, but Utah kept its turnovers low (14) while dishing 22 team assists and putting two players above the 20-point mark (Derrick Favors with 20 points, 16 rebounds and Mitchell’s 28 points).
Derrick Favors has been nothing short of crucial after having endured stretches of being benched this season and last. Favors has been an animal on the glass, and he had eight on the offensive end alone in Game 2. Joe Ingles had an off game hitting just 1 of 6 from the field, but Mitchell more than made up for it with his 10 of 25 shooting and +4 mark for his 43 (!) minutes of court time. Any other season Mitchell would be a unanimous choice for the Rookie of the Year award, but this season he will likely be passed on in favor of Philly’s Ben Simmons.
Mitchell has carried an offensively-weak Jazz team in his first season while averaging over 20 points per game and showing all the poise of a veteran. Tonight could further his statement on that Rookie of the Year notion, though it seems unlikely Simmons and his 10 triple-doubles are passed on for the award at this point.
The Thunder are going to need much more from veteran Carmelo Anthony, who is certainly showing signs of his age. He shot just 6 of 18 from the field for 17 points, but this is a guy who used to drop 30 points on the regular and he has been reduced to the role of an ineffective third option. Paul George more than had his struggles, too, hitting just 6 of 21.
The Big Three of the Thunder were a combined 19 of 58 from the field, which accounts for a loss all too easy with a cast of supporting teammates unlikely to have major breakouts at any point. Sure, Steven Adams makes a monster impact without scoring, but the Thunder likely regrets the team construction method used, at least a little because it is such a top-heavy approach and when its Big Three are off, the team loses.
It is just that simple.