With the series at 2-1 in their favor, the Utah Jazz will look to deliver a crushing blow at home as they take on Oklahoma City Thunder in today’s Game 4 of the Western Conference’s first round of the postseason (10:30 PM ET Monday).
The matchup of four and five seeds has gone just about how many would have expected. The two teams have been evenly matched with the series holding close to this point. During the regular season, it was the Thunder who managed to outwork the Jazz, defeating them in three of four meetings. It has been the opposite in the playoffs however. After dropping the first game in OKC, Utah has come back, building on their momentum from the end of the season (won 17 of 21), in order to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 – Paul George Dazzles as the Thunder Strike First
Oklahoma City defied expectations. They took a team that was not expected to do much and ended up making the playoffs. A strong surge to end the year ensured the Thunder the fourth seed in the incredibly tough and stacked Western Conference. With a renewed belief in their chances finally to win the West, the Thunder came out of the gate strong in Game 1.
OKC was led by the formidable duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook, who combined to score 65 of the Thunder’s 116 points. Westbrook contributed a game-high 13 rebounds as well, dominating the glass. As a whole, the Thunder shot over 48 percent from three-point range in the game, going 14-of-29 from behind the arc.
It was a strong team effort and one that positioned the Thunder as the superior unit. But then Game 2 saw the perception shift about which team really was the favorite to advance to the next round.
Game 2 – Rise of the Rookie: Donovan Mitchell’s Playoff Breakthrough
The Jazz played a good game in Game 1. Seven of their players including four of five starters, finished in double figures, led by Donovan Mitchell, who dropped 25 and 10 rebounds in his playoff debut. But, the Thunder were just a little bit better. That wasn’t the case in Game 2 however as Mitchell and Ricky Rubio did their best George/Westbrook impression.
Mitchell led all scorers with a career-playoff best 28 points and was joined by Rubio, who had 22 points, and Derrick Favors, who had 20, as the game’s three top scorers. No one on the Thunder topped that 20-point mark as Westbrook was capped at 19 and George 18. The two combined for a woeful night of shooting, going just 13-of-40 and 6-of-15 from three point range.
For a rookie, Mitchell looked extremely comfortable with the ball in his hands in the game’s most important moments. The rookie scored nearly half of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and made 8-of-9 free throws in the game as well. He was scoreless in seven attempts from behind the arc but his short range game was on fire and he used that basket-attacking ability to his advantage.
Game 3 – Rubio’s Triple Double Gives Jazz 2-1 Lead
Game 3 of the series will probably be most remembered by its post-game comments. After Rubio scored a triple double, the first in Jazz postseason history since John Stockton accomplished the feat in 2001, Westbrook did not mince words with his comments. A master of the triple double himself, Westbrook promised that Rubio’s feat would not be repeated again in this series.
While that is yet to be decided, what has been is that the Jazz have the chance for a decisive 3-1 lead as they head to game four in Utah. Rubio has been on all series and Game 3 was no different. He shot incredibly well and was there when the Jazz needed him. Down 47-43, Rubio scored 10 consecutive points. When the team was down 10, he took over as the main offensive presence as well.
Even though Rubio was the star, the Jazz earned their 13-point victory over the Thunder by virtue of a team effort. All five starters scored in double figures with three of the five including Mitchell, who had a double double himself, scoring at least 20. As a whole, the Jazz shot over 52 percent from the floor and over 38 percent from three point range.
The Thunder were paced by George’s 23. Carmelo Anthony added 14 on a 6-of-10 shooting night, but Westbrook only had 14 as well. He shot just 5-of-17 from the floor.
Our Preview’s OKC at Utah Jazz Game 4 Picks & Betting Predictions
When the series first began, it looked like the Thunder were well on their way to advancing to the next round. However, now it looks like the Jazz are headed for a series win. Utah has played like an experienced postseason team despite their two top stars, Mitchell and Rubio, being in their first playoff series. Neither man has shown any signs of nerves or discomfort.
On the other hand, the Thunder haven’t been able to get it going over the last two games. Westbrook and George, two high volume shooters, are being killed by low shooting percentages and that has hurt the Thunder tremendously. If OKC has any hope of getting back in this series, they will need Westbrook and George to find their scoring touch and soon.
The Jazz enter this game as 5.5 points favorites with the sports betting websites, which isn’t all that high considering the decisive beating they laid on the Thunder in Game 3. At home, Utah will look to feed off the crowd much like they did in Game 3. This game will be won by the team that shoots better. That may sound oversimplified but that’s how good the Thunder can be. If Westbrook and George are both on, Utah’s defense will have a hard time keeping up. But if they aren’t and if Rubio and Mitchell are the ones filling the stat sheets, it will be a long way home to OKC for the deciding Game 5.
So, for the bets, this is how our Thunder vs Utah Jazz predictions look:
- Take the Thunder to best the spread as they tie up the series thanks to big nights from George and Westbrook. Bet on OKC +5.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes or Intertops. It is -115 with Bovada and +5pts with Bookmaker.
- As for the total, this has been a high-scoring series and there is no reason to expect this game to go any differently. Take the over 209pts @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes, Bookmaker or Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.