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Jazz, Thunder Get Chippy, Westbrook Backs Down From Rubio Pledge

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It’s quietly been one of the most intense and surprising series in the Western Conference first round Playoffs, but nobody can continue to ignore the physicality of the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s battle out West.

Things got chippy again from the jump in Game 4, and the Jazz promptly handed a beatdown to the favored Thunder, who many picked to challenge for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.

“This is the playoffs. It’s going to be war,” Jazz guard Ricky Rubio said (h/t ESPN). “You’re playing seven games and you’ve got to win four. We know that it’s going to be another war next game, and we just need to be tough but at the same time mentally ready for that. We’re not backing down, but at the same time we know we have to be ready for a fight and respond.”

Speaking of Rubio, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who pledged to shut down Rubio after his hot performance in Game 3, again struggled to cover Rubio, picking up four fouls in the first half, all on Rubio.

After the game, Westbrook took a different tone when talking about Rubio, who has, at times, schooled Westbrook during the series.

“It’s not about me and him,” Westbrook said when asked about his approach to guarding Rubio. “Let’s get past that. We’re done with that.”

Guarantees are a funny thing, aren’t they?

The series has been heated, to say the least, and Game 4 was no different as a total of seven technical fouls were called, and one near ejection.

“It’s basketball. It’s the playoffs,” Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. “Guys get physical doing certain things. As long as you don’t hurt yourself and don’t do anything crazy, just got to keep your composure and get on to the next play sometimes.”

“Every game has been physical,” Jazz big man Rudy Gobert said. “At the end of the day, it’s basketball, and even if you try to do something else, we’re just going to keep playing basketball.”

The Jazz are shocking the NBA with their dismantling of the Thunder, who formed a big 3 last offseason to make a championship run.

Utah isn’t having that.

“We just stayed within ourselves,” said Utah’s rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell.

“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.”

 

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Thunder’s Paul George Asked Billy Donovan to Stop Running Plays for Him

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Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George reportedly asked head coach Billy Donovan to stop running plays for him at one point last season.

George made the comments during an interview with ESPN’s Royce Young:

“I’ve always been a guy to just let the game come to me,” George said.

“Just play the game. If it’s a shot for me, if I can make a play, create for someone else, I’ll do that. A lot of times you run a play, everybody’s watching, everybody’s locked in, everybody’s pulling over and it just makes the game tougher for me

“I like it when I can kind of manipulate and be on attack mode where they don’t know what to do, as opposed to a play other teams [can] scout.”

Donovan added in:

“At times he’s like, ‘Stop—just let me get it,'” Donovan said. “I had to learn him. I can watch things on film and say, ‘Oh, that’s a good play and he made that shot, let’s run that,’ but there’s a lot more to it than that.”

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Thunder Exercise Option on Terrance Ferguson

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have exercised the third-year option on the contract of Terrance Ferguson.

Ferguson is a former 1st round pick of Oklahoma City back in the 2017 NBA draft, and with increased playing time this season, he is averaging 2.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.6 steals per game for the Thunder.

 

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Thunder’s Paul George Talks About Russell Westbrook

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Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George had an interesting take on his MVP teammate, point guard Russell Westbrook, saying that the point guard is a bit of an “a**hole” but saying that it is fine to be one.

“You’ve got guys in the league that have that — I would say ‘a–hole’ in them that people think Russ has,” George said, according to Royce Young of ESPN. “And that’s fine. That’s fine to be an a–hole. You should be an a–hole at some point.”

In case you think that by George labeling Westbrook in such a derogatory way is a slight, George explained that it was a good thing.

“The difference is, you’ve got guys that are a–holes that don’t care to be your teammate. Russ is going to be there, regardless if he’s getting on you, if he’s chewing you out,” George explained. “If it’s something he feels he needs to address with you, he’s going to do it. But he’s going to be your teammate at the end of the day. He’s going to have your back, he’s going to stand his ground and he’s going to go to war with you. After, he’s going to laugh, he’s going to joke — that’s Russ. He’s a different type of teammate.”

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