Five takeaways from the Thunder’s first win of the 2018 Playoffs

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 15: Paul George /
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OKC Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – APRIL 15: Russell Westbrook #0 of the OKC Thunder looks on against the Utah Jazz during Game One of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 15, 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

3. Russell Westbrook must continue controlling the tempo

I talked about it in my Corey Brewer piece on Friday, and I’ll say it again here: the Thunder have to push the pace against Utah. Their defense success stems on their ability to slow the pace of the game down and set their defense, a defense that’s built on a bevy of high IQ team players. That’s why getting out in transition is so key to winning this series.

And that’s what the Thunder did on Sunday, led by their MVP point guard.

Russell Westbrook was the consummate floor general last night, pushing the ball when he had numbers yet reigning it in when he needed to. Westbrook’s 105.94 PACE rating was the highest on the team, just slightly outperforming his fellow starters. That style led to a game rating of 101.96 rating, over 4 points higher than Utah’s average during the regular season.

Oklahoma City got Utah out of their comfort zone last night – that must continue. Playoff basketball tends to side with the team who controls the style of play. Considering Utah’s known for their grind-it-out gameplan, it only makes sense Billy Donovan unleashes the most athletic point guard in the game.