OKC Thunder at Utah Jazz: Game 3 preview

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 18: Carmelo Anthony
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 18: Carmelo Anthony /
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OKC Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – APRIL 18: Russell Westbrook #0 of the OKC Thunder forces Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz to pass the ball during the first half of Game 2 of the Western Conference playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on April 18, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images) /

For the OKC Thunder, splitting the first two games at Chesapeake Energy Arena was not ideal. Now the goal must be to at least  split these two on the road. It will not be easy, but it is certainly not impossible. How to accomplish such a task, you ask?

Perimeter defense must improve

I miss Andre Roberson. With that out of the way, the pity party must officially end. Corey Brewer  has received deserved praise for the energy and um… bounciness that he provides. And stretchy… ness. He is hard to describe.

If you get credit for solid defense though, then you must also shoulder some blame when it is lacking. Brewer and Russell Westbrook must slow down the guards for the Jazz. This is an interesting backcourt battle, as I have highlighted before.

Ricky Rubio is not known for his shooting, but don’t look now, he is draining shots. The OKC Thunder must adjust and guard him more closely. That, and do whatever they can to slow down rookie-sensation, Donovan Mitchell. Turning out to be an even taller task than expected.

Make in-game adjustments

When one aggressive Westbrook drive results in a turnover, it always seems that another turnover is not far behind. Pushing the pace when possible is a great tool, but a little more control is necessary to stop the bleeding when the Jazz go on a run.

As we alluded to earlier, shots were not falling in the fourth quarter of game 2. The OK3 kept firing, going a combined 0 for 15 from the field. Westbrook and Paul George are two of the most athletic players in the series. They need to attack the basket and get to the line when shots are not falling.

Another, different adjustment that could be made is in rotations. It is not too late to experiment with lineups if it means inserting players with hot hands (see: Jerami Grant).

Balance ball-movement and aggression

The OKC Thunder kept the first game out of reach by whipping the ball around and eventually finding wide-open, All-Star-caliber talent. If that does not sound like a recipe for success, then you might have something in your ear.

Carmelo Anthony and Russ have tendencies to play “hero ball” and be a little too aggressive at times looking for their shot. That was not a major issue in the previous loss, but I bring it up as a reminder that not all aggression is ideal.

A nice balance of ball movement and smart shot-selection by the big OK3 could easily lead to a road victory in game 3.