Thunder @ Jazz Game 3 Free Pick

By NBA

The playoffs started a week ago and the Thunder and Jazz have only played twice. The first round sure does take a long time and the 4/5 series out West looks like it could go the distance.

OKC won a close game in Game 1 and Utah did the same in Game 2. That result favors Utah heading home, which has to be confident about winning twice in Salt Lake City, considering it’s looked like the better team for the first two games of the series.

The two teams look a lot like the 4/5 matchup East, where Cleveland has the star power but Indiana has team synergy. When OKC stars aren’t making great 1-on-1 plays, as seen in the fourth quarter of Game 2 when Westbrook, George and Anthony went 0-for-14, it’s in trouble.

Those three are going to have to be fantastic in at least one of the next two games if OKC is to retain home court advantage going back to Oklahoma.

Free Pick

The Jazz really is wonderful to watch. People use Ricky Rubio’s¬†name disparagingly (“Their leading scorer was Ricky Rubio.” Or, “Donovan Mitchell‘s best option is Ricky Rubio.”) but that’s only because we, as a sports-watching public, have such a hard time changing our minds once it’s made up.

Rubio was so young and flawed when he entered the NBA and it wasn’t smooth sailing right away. Most of us made up our minds that he was a bust; he grew out his hair and became a journeyman. But he’s found a home in Utah next to Mitchell and is playing great, a pass-first player like he has always been, but now with the ability to create and hit the open jumper, plus defend 1-on-1 and rebound at an above-average clip for a player his size. Disparaging Ricky Rubio, or the Jazz because of him, is ignorant of how he’s improved as a professional.

Rudy Gobert also looks healthy, spry and decidedly better than Steven Adams. He’s not only shutting down Adams, but shutting down the paint whenever Westbrook or George get in there. OKC won’t win this series as a jump-shooting team and that’s exactly what Gobert is making it thus far.

I think Utah is the better team and it’s common knowledge that it has a tremendous home court edge, not to mention OKC’s struggles on the road. Getting a split is going to be challenging for OKC and I don’t think we get its best effort until Utah blows it out of the water in this game on Saturday night.

Put me down for a double-digit Jazz win. After that, Westbrook could go crazy in Game 4; the referees could assert themselves; or the Jazz could do it again and take total control of the series. But I’m laying the points tonight.

Free Pick: Utah-4