Thunder Warnings

We interrupt this sports article to give you a weather warning. There is a dangerous Thunder weather watch in Oklahoma City that all basketball fans should #TakeNote of. There will be scattered storms on Sunday and Wednesday and then will move to the Wasatch Mountains by Salt Lake City Utah later in the week.

Ok seriously, the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team should demand more attention than a weather warning for anyone who plays for or watches the Utah Jazz. Utah has over-performed this season and while OKC hasn’t perfectly meshed their three stars yet, they have enough playoff experience to figure it out.

Most players on the Jazz, however, only got their first playoff experience with Utah last year. Derrick Favors is the lone player on the team from 2012 that was swept by the Spurs in the first round. The Jazz got a taste of the playoffs last year but many of the starters on that team such as Joe Johnson, Gordon Hayward and George Hill have since left.

Meanwhile Russell Westbrook has had plenty of playoff time with many of his teammates. The triple double machine now has a Melo (not to be confused with the candy bar) and a PG-13 (not to be confused with a movie rating) to call his teammates. These three teammates have combined to make 22 All-Star appearances.

There are a couple of keys to this series that the Jazz will have to execute to advance in the playoffs. They might need the ball to just bounce their way a couple of times. Here is what needs to happen:

1. Disturb the Iso Game: The Thunder like to iso just as much as anyone in the league and they have the talent to do it. The best the Jazz can do is employ that famous stingy Coach Snyder defense and give them enough different looks to be frustrating. If Carmelo gets thrown out of his shake and bake then the Jazz have done their job. If lobs to Steven Adams and Paul George are disrupted then the Jazz have done their job. If someone can stop Russell Westbrook before he gets to the hoop, well, you get the picture. The Jazz gotta stop the iso.

2. Ricky must be good Ricky: There is a stat out there that says when Ricky scores 15 or more points the Jazz are basically chasing the ghosts of The Statues. Ricky has to play like he’s been to the playoffs before even though he actually hasn’t. Now would not be the time to pull a Markelle Fultz and be on the injured reserve list for having his old broken shot.

3. No injuries: The Jazz had a couple of scares last year in the playoffs when Rudy Gobert and a few other players got injured but the Jazz had enough depth and a Blake Griffin injury was enough to advance to the second round. Utah can’t afford another injury like that this year with a younger more inexperienced team. Evidence has shown that the Jazz aren’t a good team when Rudy Gobert doesn’t play. His defense is the key to being an upper echelon team in the West.

4. Donovan has to back up the Rookie talk: The Spider-Man can downplay it all he wants but he needs to understand that with great power comes great responsibility. The Slam Dunk champion must dunk on cats. The Rookie of the Year candidate must play worthy of the Webster’s definition of a rookie on his hoodie. He won four straight Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards and he needs to continue to play like the best player out there even among guys on the other team who are pretty good. In his words “We have the defensive player of the year and the coach of the year on our team so I’m happy.” The Jazz will continue to be happy if they keep trusting in Mitchell as he trusts in them.

Beyond these keys the Jazz will need a bit of luck. When asked about his take on shots the Jazz missed in their last game, Coach Snyder said, “We want to make them.” That almost sounds like a lighthearted version of Russell Westbrook with the media. There will be plenty of tongue and cheek to go around in this playoff series.

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