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Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio, and Team Basketball

Rubio may have scored just 13 points, but six Jazz players finished with double-digit scoring and the Jazz had 21 assists compared to a paltry 10 for the Thunder.

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On Saturday, Russell Westbrook made a guarantee. After Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio outplayed Westbrook to score 28 points and lead Utah to a Game 3 victory, Westbrook declared that he would shut Rubio down and prevent him from getting easy shots. He did just that in Game 4, hounding Rubio and limiting him to 13 points on 4-12 shooting. But the Jazz won anyways, taking a comfortable lead in the second half and grabbing a dominating 3-1 series lead.

Of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder could still win this series and I doubt anyone would be stunned to see them pull off three straight victories. But Westbrook’s obsession with shutting down Rubio shows the limitations of this Thunder team compared to the Jazz. The Thunder may have more star talent, though even that may not be true given Donovan Mitchell’s incredible play while Carmelo Anthony shrinks. But the Jazz play as a team as opposed to a star who is more focused on shutting down a single player as opposed to the team as a whole.

Rubio himself pointed that out, as he responded to Westbrook’s guarantee by noting that if any of the Jazz players step up, that is fine as long as they get the win. Rubio may have scored just 13 points, but six Jazz players finished with double-digit scoring and the Jazz had 21 assists compared to a paltry 10 for the Thunder.

Westbrook’s Problems

To be fair, Westbrook is not the sole reason why the Thunder are down. Carmelo Anthony is a shell of himself and the idea that he was saving his body for the postseason looks utterly absurd. The Thunder have practically no two-way players. They have less lockdown shooters than the Rockets, Warriors, and Jazz.

But while the Jazz are committed to team basketball, the Thunder are thinking at the individual level. Think about Westbrook’s guarantee for a moment. Rubio is a better scorer with his hip hop shoes than most give him credit for, but he remains primarily a passer and you want him taking a shot instead of Mitchell or Joe Ingles at the three-point line.

And the way Westbrook played defense on Rubio indicated that he was more interested in showing up Rubio than in actually limiting Utah’s attack. Westbrook relentlessly went over screens to chase Rubio and thus gave him open passing lanes. He also picked up four fouls in the first half by being too aggressive. He finished with five, but frankly should have fouled out as the referees appeared determined not to send Westbrook out and overall got embroiled into arguments with the Thunder, one of which could see him suspended for Game 5 for leaving the bench according to Yahoo Sports. Utah responded by turning to their other options and Westbrook appeared to have no answer.

If the Thunder prevail in the end, it almost certainly will not be because they learn to play team basketball in the next few days, but because of individual brilliance by either Westbrook or Paul George. But the difference between Westbrook’s focus on Rubio and Rubio’s focus on the game shows the different levels at which these two teams operate, and why Utah is sitting with the commanding lead.

Boston Celtics

NBA Playoff Schedule 2018

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Are you ready for the NBA Playoffs? Well, we have you covered with the full NBA Playoff schedule including game times, TV coverage info, matchups and dates.

Here is how things are breaking down, schedule wise, per NBA.com. NOTE: * = if necessary

Western Conference

No. 1 Houston Rockets vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves

Game 1: Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets: April 15 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 2: Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets: April 18 at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 3: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves: April 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 4: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves: April 23 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 5: Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets: April 25 at TBD

*Game 6: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves: April 27 at TBD

*Game 7: Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets: April 29 at TBD

 

No. 2 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs

Game 1: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors: April 14 at 3 p.m. ET on ABC

Game 2: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors: April 16 at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 3: Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs: April 19 at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 4: Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs: April 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

*Game 5: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors: April 24 at TBD

*Game 6: Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs: April 26 at TBD

*Game 7: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors: April 28 at TBD

 

No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans

Game 1: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers: April 14 at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 2: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers: April 17 at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 3: Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans: April 19 at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV

Game 4: Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans: April 21 at 5 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 5: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers: April 24 at TBD

*Game 6: Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans: April 26 at TBD

*Game 7: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers: April 28 at TBD

 

No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz

Game 1: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder: April 15 at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 2: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder: April 18 at 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV

Game 3: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz: April 21 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 4: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz: April 23 at 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 5: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder: April 25 at TBD

*Game 6: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz: April 27 at TBD

*Game 7: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder: April 29 at TBD

 

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards

Game 1: Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors: April 14 at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 2: Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors: April 17 at 7 p.m. ET on NBA TV

Game 3: Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards: April 20 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Game 4: Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards: April 22 at 6 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 5: Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors: April 25 at TBD

*Game 6: Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards: April 27 at TBD

*Game 7: Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors: April 29 at TBD

 

No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks

Game 1: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: April 15 at 1 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 2: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: April 17 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 3: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks: April 20 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 4: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks: April 22 at 1 p.m. ET on ABC

*Game 5: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: April 24 at TBD

*Game 6: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks: April 26 at TBD

*Game 7: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: April 28 at TBD

 

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Miami Heat

Game 1: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers: April 14 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 2: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers: April 16 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 3: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat: April 19 at 7 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 4: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat: April 21 at 2:30 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 5: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers: April 24 at TBD

*Game 6: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat: April 26 at TBD

*Game 7: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers: April 28 at TBD

 

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers

Game 1: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: April 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Game 2: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: April 18 at 7 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 3: Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: April 20 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 4: Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: April 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 5: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: April 25 at TBD

*Game 6: Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: April 27 at TBD

*Game 7: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers  April 29 at TBD

 

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NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder Hopeful For Russell Westbrook Extension

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An important crossroads is upon the Oklahoma City Thunder and superstar Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook signed a three-year, $85 million extension with Oklahoma city last year, a month after the Thunder unexpectedly lost Kevin Durant in free agency to the Golden State Warriors.

Under the NBA’s new CBA, the Thunder have the ability to sign Westbrook to a five-year, $217 million supermax contract deal.

Westbrook has a player option on the final year of that contract that can allow him to be a free agent in 2018.

So, the Thunder are again at a crossroads with a franchise player.

“The rules are that you can’t have that conversation until July 1, and you know, when that time comes, we’ll sit down, we’ll have conversations with him about what that opportunity presents,” Thunder exec Sam Presti said Monday (h/t RealGM).

“And you know, we’re obviously hopeful that he remains really excited about being a part of this organization for the remainder of his career.”

The team also has to consider the possibility that Westbrook doesn’t sign an extension and that, if he does not, he could be a free agent in 2018.

That scenario would fuel trade speculation and could put pressure on the Thunder to trade Westbrook instead of lose him for nothing in free agency.

“Let’s not think so far ahead,” Presti said.

“Let’s just see where the information takes us. I understand the question. I think the biggest thing is, we had that conversation with Russell last year, and you know, he was really clear, and it worked itself out. So before we get all the way down the road on what if, what if this happens, what if that happens: Again, that’s one of those things where we’re talking about a very complex question, a very complex situation with a lot of moving parts, and looking for, like, a simple answer to that.”

It’s an important time for the Thunder and their remaining superstar after the departures of Durant and James Harden.

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NBA

Russell Westbrook Defends Teammates After Game 4 Loss

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Following Sundays 113-109 loss to the Houston Rockets, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was in no mood to hear questions separating him from his teammates.

When Center Steven Adams was asked about the teams inability to remain effective without there triple double machine on the floor, Westbrook cut in.

“I don’t want nobody to try and split us up. We’re all one team. If I go to the bench and Steven’s on the floor and I’m off the floor, we’re in this together. Don’t split us up. Don’t try to split us up. Don’t try to make us go against each other or make it Russell and the rest of the guys. Russell against Houston. I don’t want to hear that. We’re in this together. We play as a team. That’s all that matters.”  

-Via Associated Press

Westbrook has been the subject of a lot of criticism this season and post season. His usage rate is thru the roof, but so are his numbers. His team struggles to produce offense when he sits for long stretches.

After the loss, the Thunder dropped into a 3-1 hole in the first round of the playoffs. Much of the conversation around this series has involved MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Game 5 will be Tuesday night in Houston.

 

 

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