As the Oklahoma City Thunder shot free throws in the second quarter, a Utah Jazz fan seated baseline waved his cardboard Ricky Rubio cutout head on a stick. The stick snapped in half, and Rubio’s head went flying onto the court.
Russell Westbrook popped up off the end of the bench and walked onto the floor, picking up Rubio’s cardboard head. He acted as if he were going to crumple it up and then shot a grin at the Jazz fans as they booed him.
We just stayed within ourselves, Donovan Mitchell said. We always say the strength of our team is the strength of our team. I said this morning we’re not really worried about one individual comment. I think if we get caught up in that it takes us out of our own game, and our play showed tonight that we really just focused on each other and made the right plays when we needed to.
Westbrook accomplished his mission, at least statistically, in the first half. Rubio was shut down, with just six points on 1-of-5 shooting. But it was the gamesmanship by Rubio that bested Westbrook, using Westbrook’s hyper-charged energy against him to put him into foul trouble and neutralize his aggressiveness. After the fourth foul, Westbrook just wasn’t the same player as he protected against his fifth.
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Little bit. Little bit, Westbrook said of his approach changing because of foul Abraham Almonte Youth jersey trouble. Obviously, not being able to be on the ball takes a little bit of aggression away, but things like that happen within the game and you’ve got to figure out how to play with it.
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While the Jazz opened the game with a dynamite third quarter (outscoring OKC 12-2 in the first three minutes), everything changed in those closing minutes of the first half. Utah has a 3-1 lead after a 113-96 win, and the Thunder are officially on the ropes.
The raw numbers for the centers in the series were pretty similar. Towns averaged 15.2 points and 13.4 rebounds, compared to 15.8 points and 14.2 rebounds for Capela. But their impact wasn’t comparable, as Capela’s relentless energy played a key role in the Houston Rockets finishing off the Timberwolves in five games, a stark contrast to Towns’ often passive play.