The Houston Rockets blasted the Minnesota Timberwolves, 122-104, to close out their series at 4-1 and advance to the NBA Western Conference semi-finals. The Jazz have out-rebounded the Thunder in four consecutive games, and they have also limited the Thunder to an average of 100 points in their last four games.
The teams travel to Utah for game six with the Thunder still on the brink of an early playoff exit, but holding all the momentum and a potential game seven back in Oklahoma.
The Utah Jazz had a 25-point lead with 8½ minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Thunder answered with its greatest playoff comeback and rallied for a 107-99 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The game, however, turned when Jazz centre and key rim protector Rudy Gobert had to be benched with foul trouble midway through the third, allowing the Thunder's Westbrook to go on a 20-point tear.
The two teams now travel to Salt Lake City for game six on Saturday. And though it technically isn't win-or-die for the Jazz, it sure feels like it, and truly is for the Thunder.
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As tough of a loss as this is, the Jazz are confident they will be able to bounce back at home in Game 6 Friday night. They have big reputations to keep, a heavily-hyped season to save and quite possibly could lose George to free agency if they fizzle in the first round. The biggest issue for the Wizards is a lack of production from their third-best player, SF Otto Porter Jr., who is scoring only 10 points per game and has made five 3s all series.
In fact, the 10-time All-Star has not had an assist since Game 1, as noted by Sean Deveney. The Thunder only shot 43% from the field, and they drilled 9 of 21 three-point attempts.
The Thunder have put pressure on the Jazz after taking Game 5 in the series. "Regardless of what is going on in the game, you have to give yourself a chance to win, and I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight", Westbrook said. Would James have gone for a 3-pointer if the Cavs were down by two in that situation? Crowder scored 15 points - making four 3-pointers - over the final 4:38 of the opening period as Utah took a 34-29 lead. Paul George added 34 points and eight rebounds as Oklahoma City cut Utah's lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2. He finished with 27 points, tying a career high. With George focused defensively on Utah star rookie Donovan Mitchell, opportunities likely will be there for Crowder.
The problem with trying to recreate the effort is that there are aspects of a 25-point comeback that only happen once in a blue moon for any team.