Let’s cut through all the clutter and B.S. in the Jazz-OKC playoff series and say it the way it is:
The Thunder are done. Done in. Done for. Done gone. Done run. Done beat.
It’s not just that the Jazz are up, 3-1, and they’ve thumped the Thunder in three straight games, on the road and at home, games that have increasingly become as lopsided as a Kardashian cartwheel, the margin totaling 37 points. It’s much worse than just that.
And it’s more than the way OKC is reacting on the court to the way the Jazz are frustrating them with their defense and putting them in the blender at the offensive end. It’s more than Russell Westbrook making guarantees, promising individual things that are filled with his own hurt pride and don’t really matter in the more significant matters of … you know, actually helping his team win games.
It’s more than Westbrook bumping Ricky Rubio and Paul George shoving Joe Ingles and Steven Adams throwing his large body around and Ray Felton getting frisky, all of them desperately trying to knock the Jazz off their game by knocking them upside the head, the shoulders, the midsection, the tenders, and calling it playoff basketball.
It’s not just the Thunder behaving as though they, not the Jazz, are the relative playoff neophytes.
It’s not just the fact that in Game 4, a showdown they pretty much had to win, they shot the ball as though they were loading ladders into a heavy-duty van, hitting 39 percent of their attempts overall and 19 percent from deep, and that they could not or did not share the ball, racking up a team total of just 10 assists. Ten? Isn’t that what Westbrook averaged by himself during the regular season?
It’s not just that when any of the individual stars beat their man off the dribble, they run straight into Gobert, a presence that makes them uncomfortable attacking the basket, even when they manage to make a few shots.
It’s not just that the Jazz with their constant ball movement are running them around, dizzying them up with pass after pass after pass after pass after pass.
It’s not just that the Jazz are even beating the Thunder in the area where they were so effective before the playoffs started — on the offensive glass.
And it’s not just that Quin Snyder, with his jolly little band of rookies and limited players and castoffs and no-names, is two full strides ahead of Billy Donovan, with his Westbrook-George-Melo threesome. Although, that’s getting a whole lot closer to what it really is.
It’s the way the Thunder players reacted after they lost Game 4.
They were unable to really grasp what’s happening to them. If they have any hints, they struggled to articulate them when they were asked.
Get a load of their postgame answers to questions late Monday night/early Tuesday morning.
Q: Paul, the game got chippy and seemed to stay that way, a couple of skirmishes, a lot of technical fouls. What effect did that have on the game?
A: George: “None. It’s playoff basketball. It’s going to get chippy, it’s going to get physical. We’re in it for the fight.”
Q: Russ, how much is it about missing shots, as a group, and how much of it is about getting better shots? They seem to get better shots than you guys.
A: Westbrook: “We’re just missing some open shots. …”
Q: Carmelo, when you’re not making shots like tonight, what can you do to stay effective?
A: Anthony: “Offensively, continue to take those shots. That’s something you can’t control, whether the ball goes in or not. For the most part, just continue to stay engaged for the whole game, both ends of the court.”
Q: Paul, you won Game 1, Game 2, tight loss, Games 3 and 4 have gotten progressively worse. What can you do to turn it around?
A: George: “Play like we played in Game 1. They’re just making tough shots. They’re making big plays. As Melo said, Game 5 is a must-win. At this point, us three, this is what we want. Not necessarily to be in this position, but to, at this point, give it everything we’ve got. ... Approach this game like it’s Game 7. And see what happens there.”
Q: Paul, you had a stretch for almost two quarters where you didn’t have an assist. What was the issue with ball movement?
A: George: “Um … nothing. We were in pick-and-rolls, we had a big in front of us, playing at the rim. Not all of that is … we missed shots. That’s all it came down to. We just missed shots and we missed plays at the rim.”
Q: Did you guys come in wanting to play with playoff physicality?
A: Westbrook: “Next question.”
Yeah, the Thunder are in trouble.
They’re not sure what to do with the Jazz, and the Jazz’s strategy. How to attack it. How to beat it. The Jazz are doing more than simply making tough shots. And the Thunder are doing more than just missing routine ones. If their solution to the problem is that George has to make 8-of-11 3-pointers, as he did in Game 1, or that Westbrook must go superhuman, or that they have to knock the Jazz around, that’s not much of a plan. But it’s all they’ve got.
Even if they manage to win a game in OKC, these guys are already beat.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.