By Griffin Finch
This first round match up showed us the playoff debut of the three headed monster put together in Oklahoma City featuring Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Considering that they lost in six games despite having home court advantage, I think it’s safe to say that they were unable to live up to the most minimal expectations we had for them before the postseason. Their opponent: The Utah Jazz lead by Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell, played exceptionally, upsetting the Thunder in a fashion that shocked the basketball world.
This past summer, Sam Presti got Westbrook the kind of help we thought he needed to advance in the playoffs. However, they never really figured out how to play together especially in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. All three of them believe in themselves before anyone else and they all want to take that game winning shot. Once the playoffs came around OKC’s big three was terrible. This was exemplified when in the fourth quarter of game two at home, Westbrook, George and Anthony combined for 0-14 from the field. Three all stars went scoreless in a crucial playoff game at home. While the majority of the blame for this loss should be put on them because when you are that great of a trio you need to figure out how to get it done, Billy Donovan also needs to be held at least partially accountable. When you watched the Thunder play, all of their shots were contested. This means whatever the head coach was drawing up (if he was drawing up plays) were not working. With the talent on that roster you should be able to get them quality shots and win a first round series against a team lead by a rookie.
Donovan Mitchell absolutely balled out in his playoff debut averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists while showcasing why he is the best player out of the 2017 draft class. Head coach and Coach of the Year candidate Quin Snyder did an excellent job getting his team to play with purpose and high energy especially on the defensive end of the floor. On paper, they were severely outmanned and had no business winning that series. But thanks to exceptional leadership from their coach and rookie sensation, combined with Rudy Gobert locking down the paint and forcing the Thunder to take tough jump shots They were able to win both road games to start the series and went on to close it out in game six in front of their home crowd.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. The have Westbrook locked up for a few more years, but Paul George is an unrestricted free agent, and Carmelo Anthony, if he opts into the last year of his contract he will be owed north of 28 million dollars. They also need to decide if Billy Donovan is truly a coach that can guide a team to the Finals. The Jazz advance to the second round where they are rewarded by getting to face the Houston Rockets. Honestly, the Rockets are too much of a powerhouse for the Jazz to hope to win. They can win a game, maybe two but that’s all. Considering the circumstances, a second round exit after being defeated by Houston is a very successful season for Utah.