Russell Westbrook and the Thunder don’t appear to have any idea how to beat the Jazz – The Denver Post

After the Oklahoma City Thunder lost Game 3 of its first-round NBA playoff series to the Utah Jazz, Russell Westbrook said he was going to “shut that (expletive) down.” Ricky Rubio had scored 26 points and completed a triple-double as Utah took a two-games-to-one lead in the series.

After the Thunder lost Game 4 Monday night, Westbrook said people were reading too much into the matchup between him and Rubio.

Wait, what?

“It was not about me and him,” Westbrook said. “Let’s get past that. We’re done with that.”

OK, then.

Westbrook may not like it, but his matchup with Rubio was a defining part of Utah’s 113-96 victory in Game 4. Rubio didn’t have quite the same stat line he did in Game 3, but he had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and Utah was plus-22 in his 34 minutes on the court.

Westbrook, on the other hand, had 23 points, 14 rebounds and three assists (with five turnovers) in 36 minutes but was minus-14. And Westbrook picked up both his third and fourth fouls in the second quarter — first trying to block a Rubio shot, then when he was called for a charge when he tried to drive by Rubio.

“We’re not really worried about one individual’s comment,” said Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

Westbrook’s comments after Game 3, as well as the natural desperation that comes with a pivotal Game 4, led to a chippy game. Several skirmishes broke out, including the most explosive one in the fourth quarter, when Westbrook committed a hard foul on Jae Crowder to stop play to complain to the referees about not getting a foul call on the prior play.

Crowder took exception, and when Steven Adams and Carmelo Anthony got in his face, Crowder hit Adams in the face with an elbow — earning his second technical of the game and an ejection.

“This was like a Game 7,” Crowder said. “I’ve been in a Game 7, and this was like the physicality of a Game 7.”

“We know it’s going to be another war next game,” Rubio said. “We have to be tough and be mentally ready for that. We have to be ready for a fight and respond.”

Can Oklahoma City put up a better fight on the court Wednesday in Game 5? The Thunder has now been run off the court for nine quarters, dating back to its collapse at the end of Game 2, and shows no signs of solving Utah’s swarming defense — as well as continually leaving shooters open for 3s.

“We’ve got to win,” Anthony said. “There’s nothing to it. We’ve just got to win. We can sit here and say what we have to do, or what we did do or didn’t do, but it comes down to winning that game on Wednesday.”

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