EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Thunder contol game start to finish to win season series

Summary: The Oklahoma City Thunder were better than the Utah Jazz, start to finish, and won the season series over the Jazz with a 103-89 win.
• The Thunder’s defense makes it very difficult for the Jazz to run their offense in the manner they want. The Jazz run the third most amount of handoffs in the NBA and are the 7th best offensive team in the NBA on those handoffs. The Thunder are so physical defensively with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George and Jerami Grant. They made it very difficult for the Jazz to get in rhythm.

• The Thunder are the number one team in the NBA guarding the above the break 3-point shot, holding opponents to 33%. The Jazz are sixth best at 37%. Tonight, the Thunder got the better of that battle as the Jazz were 3 of 16 on above the break 3-point shots.

• The Thunder’s offense has been improving and over the last three games, they have had their second, third and sixth best offensive games.

• Westbrook is a 36% midrange shooter. For the past four games, however, he was shooting an incredible 66% on midrange shots and hit 7 of his first 10 tonight. He finished 7 of 14 in the midrange.

• Donovan Mitchell was the highlight for the Jazz: 29 points on an amazing 12 of 16 shooting against Roberson and George much of the night. These are the best wing defenders in the NBA.

• Mitchell — who had been struggling in the midrange — went 3 for 3. You don’t want him taking midrange shots, but if he can make the few he attempts, it will open up drives to the basket at a whole new level. I believe he was 6 of 8 in the restricted area tonight. He is now an incomprehensible 28 of his last 34 in the restricted area.

• Making 28 of 34 shots in the restricted area doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen for rookies. It doesn’t happen if you aren’t dunking. It doesn’t happen if you are a guard. It just doesn’t happen.

• There was an interesting moment after the game when Russell Westbrook stopped Donovan Mitchell and had some words of encouragement for him. I don’t see Westbrook after most games, but he doesn’t strike me as the player who does this very often with opponents.

• Westbrook’s energy tonight was awesome, as always. He came out of the chute playing a full speed on a back to back and carried his team’s energy the rest of the night.

• The Thunder struggle badly when Roberson and Westbrook are off the floor and are great when they are on. Tonight they were +12 with Westbrook and +11 with Roberson. From a Jazz standpoint, what that really means is they were +3 in Westbrook’s 10 minutes on the bench and the Jazz have to outscore the Thunder in those minutes and they were +4 when Roberson was on the bench.

• Joe Ingles has played a ton of minutes and has been under the weather. He might be a bit worn out as he has hit on just 4 of his last 17 from 3 and is a better shooter than that. Joe always has a complete game and had 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

• The Jazz as a team were just 6 of 26 from 3. The Jazz took 36% of their shots as 3-pointers; It might be nice to see that number increase a little bit as long as the team is going to play small.

• The Thunder had 15 offensive rebounds tonight. They are the number two offensive rebounding team in the league and that is a weapon for them. They ended up taking 16 more shots than the Jazz because of offensive rebounding and had just eight turnovers compared to the Jazz’s 14.

• Ricky Rubio took 6 of the Jazz’s first 8 shots. He played just 22 minutes tonight.

• Rodney Hood failed to score in double figures for the first time since November 1.

• The Thunder won the season series with the Jazz 3 games to 1 and have won 10 of their last 13. They may be finding themselves. I don’t believe they are ever going to be a very good offensive team, but they are so good defensively they are going to win a lot of games.