Jazz’s Ricky Rubio shrugs off Russell Westbrook’s guarantee ahead of Game 4

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) guards against Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio (3) in the first half during Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, April 21, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Coming off one of his biggest career games — one in which he notched a playoff triple-double as a sellout home crowd chanted his name — Ricky Rubio’s first question Monday morning was about Russell Westbrook.

“I knew it was coming,” Rubio said, his eyes rolling toward the ceiling.

The Thunder-Jazz series, which Utah leads 2-1, has been hijacked by Westbrook’s postgame comments from Game 3. After Rubio recorded a 26-point, 11-rebound and 10-assist performance in the Jazz win, Westbrook guaranteed he would “shut that s*** off.”

It was in line with the attitude Westbrook has seemed to carry with Rubio over the last several years, attacking him aggressively on offense while sagging off of him on defense. But rather than engage in a war of words with the reigning MVP, Rubio said the media was “taking this too personal.”

“ I mean of course he wants to play better,” Rubio said. “I want to play better, too. That’s it.”

Rubio’s game has gotten better as the series has gone on. After a subpar start in Game 1 in which he shot 5 for 18, Rubio is now averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists for the series. He’s also, notably, shooting 35 percent from 3-point range — which is roughly on par for his season average (and his career best). Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, but shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 27 percent on 3-point shots.

The Jazz said they aren’t just preparing for a tougher effort from Westbrook, but the whole Oklahoma City team. Steven Adams confirmed that he thought Game 4 in Utah was a “must-win” for the Thunder.

Rubio said he’s not putting pressure on himself for a dramatic encore performance.

“I mean, the win was the most important thing,” he said. “We’re playing as a team. We’re doing a good job doing that. In Game 2, [Derrick] Favors and Jonas [Jerebko] stepped up big. In Game 3, I put up big numbers, but it wasn’t just numbers, the whole team played good as a team, and we’re gonna keep up that game plan.”

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