Thunder in the News: Game One win leads to increased optimism

OKC Thunder Paul George (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder Paul George (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

There comes a time in a person’s like where they believe their team will win the NBA Finals. That day might be coming soon for this OKC Thunder fan.

I reallyyyyyyyyy want to overreact to yesterday’s win in Oklahoma City. Paul George played like a better version of OKC-KD (defense goes a long way), the Thunder’s bench looked competent and Billy Donovan coached like somebody who has a definitive grasp of his team. It was truly spectacular.

Now the question is if they can continue that effort for a full seven-game series (and then again, and again, and again). It sounds difficult, but the recipe for success is in front of them. And that starts with Playoff P.

Playoff P has officially arrived

If we get this Paul George the entire Playoffs the rest of the West is in trouble. All season-long the narrative was that George was Westbrook’s second-in-command, that this team will go as far as Westbrook takes them. Last night indicates those statements might no be 100% accurate.

George was a menace on both ends of the floor, a player that Utah simply couldn’t contain. Westbrook acknowledged the mismatch and deferred to George to bring up the ball because of it. While I don’t like that Russ still took five more shots, it was clear George was a #1B option and not a #2. As long as that continues – and Playoff P keeps making his shots – then OKC has a legitimate shot to make the Conference Finals.

"Utah had no answer for him on Sunday. There’s not much any defender can do when a player as big as George (6-foot-9 and 220 pounds with a 6-foot-11 wingspan) can raise up off the dribble and knock down 3s."

Let’s hope Donovan Mitchell can play out the series

This is something we all should be rooting for. Even though a Utah Jazz without Donovan Mitchell would almost assuredly result in an OKC sweep/win in five, losing Mitchell would be detrimental to this series. Not only would it give the Thunder a bigger test before the next round (hopefully), but it takes away from the overall spectacle of this series.

Send positive thoughts out to the world that Mitchell’s toe injury won’t be a lingering issue. The Thunder need to be challenged, yes, but as a pure basketball fan I want to see what the rookie can do in his first Playoffs.

"“I feel fine,” Mitchell said after the game. “Think I just stubbed my toe. Nothing major.”"

Five keys for Oklahoma City to close out the series

And finally, we take a look at what the Thunder need to do to finish this series. Granted, Austin Sternlicht wrote this piece prior to Game One, but everything he says remains true today. Oklahoma City completed 3 of Austin’s 5 goals last night; if they bump that up to 4 or 5 they should be able to win this series convincingly.

Check it out to see whether you agree with him or not. Leave a comment and one of us (Austin, Tamberlyn or myself) will be sure to reply with our thoughts.

"The Jazz enter the playoffs winning 29 of its final 35 games. This Utah team is gritty, confident, and well-coached."

Next: Battle of big men will determine this series

That’s it for today’s issue of Thunder in the News! If you think this is the only content we have running you are drastically underestimating the Thunderous Intentions staff. We’ve got both player grades and takeaways from last night’s W, in-depth looks at matchups to watch for, roundtable discussions from the TI staff.

You name it, we have it. Just go to our home page and your basketball mind will be content for the next few hours.