The Thunder played great, the Jazz not so much.
As far as Game 1 went, it really couldn’t have gone much better. So, what’s up for Game 2 tonight in Oklahoma City?
Here are 20 predictions:
A Game 2 win gives the Thunder a huge cushion heading into a pair of road games in Utah starting Saturday, but (1) the main concern on your social media won’t be about the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert, it will be about the free t-shirts at Chesapeake Arena.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 17, 2018
They look pretty good, right? Well, beyond the fans stuffing themselves into their shirts and being oddly uncomfortable wearing an extra-layer indoors, (2) it will be the Thunder who look more uncomfortable early on. Russell Westbrook only took four 3-pointers in Game 1, but (3) he’ll take at least three 3-pointers in the first quarter tonight. And (4) he’ll miss all three. Meanwhile, Jazz guard Ricky Rubio, who took 18 shots in the game-one loss Sunday, (5) will take less than three shots in the first quarter. Rubio will also (6) take less than 12.5 shots for the game.
But back to the mood around town and beyond. Everyone seems to getting in line behind the Thunder. That’s what happens when you have three all-stars who play well in a game. Things brighten up. Even TNT’s Charles Barkley, who hasn’t exactly been a Thunder fan this season, telling fans they should save their money for the rodeo, instead of for playoff tickets, changed his mind after Game 1, saying the Thunder are the better team. Paul George has given himself a nickname, which is borderline odd behavior, but that’s not the point, and billboards around town are even promoting the mystical “Playoff P.”
Usually it takes more than a game to reach “Billboard worthy” status, but sometimes life is a crazy journey. Despite the fact “Playoff P” has eerily similar numbers to “Regular Season P,” (7) the fans will cheer him as if he’s “MV-P.” Well, (8) George won’t be as good as he was in Game 1 when he made eight 3-pointers, but (9) he will make two in the first quarter, but if you’re driving up I-35 Thursday morning, (10) you won’t see any new advertisements promoting Paul to new heights. Then again, this all might just be a low-key approach to try and keep Paul around next season. Some questions are destined to remain unanswered.
Unless something wild happens, Carmelo Anthony will be back next season. But it’s not like we get the chance to really miss him, right? Anthony played 37 minutes Sunday, which is 5 minutes more on average than he played this regular season. It’s also 5 min more than he’s averaged in any season since he last made the playoffs five years ago. Yikes. But you know what that means, and it’s not such a terrible thing. Coach Billy Donovan trusts veterans. Donovan will trust Anthony again tonight. (11) Count on Anthony playing another 35 minutes and that means the bench gets shorter. Also count on (12) less than 13 minutes for Jerami Grant.
That’s the formula that worked best Sunday. Lots o minutes for the starters. Limited minutes for the bench, but the best news from the Game 1 win means there will be at least one more game in OKC. And that means at least one more opportunity to get your hands on a sweet, free t-shirt.
OK, that’s not the best thing from Game 1. The best thing is the Thunder have become trendy again. This team, the one that limped through the regular season with not much care or concern looked like a contender. Sure, it was just one game, but by halftime (13) you’ll be thinking about Houston, or Golden State or what size you need for your championship ring. That’s what happens when you have three Hall of Famers on one team. The potential seems limitless. A bit different from last season, no?
The issue is whether Russ will be different, too. A season ago, Russ took over. This season he doesn’t need to, but that doesn’t mean he won’t feel the need to tonight. (14) Russ won’t have a triple-double but (15) he will score more than 40 points. After all, this is still Westbrook’s team, and it’s still Westbrook’s world. That means (16) Wednesday night is another opportunity for a “Fashion Emergency.” You’ll see Westbrook in another outfit that would be considered ridiculous if anyone else, anywhere else, wore it.
(17) You won’t hear Thunder announcer Brian Davis dwell on the details of his one-game suspension for his poor choice of words, but he will apologize.
(18) You will see Game 2 come down to the final minute and you (19) will see Westbrook take a 3-pointer to win the game.
(20) It won’t go in.
Listen to Andrew Gilman with Mike Steely, Jessi Stone and Geoff Roughface from 5:30-9 a.m. on The Franchise, 107.7 FM in OKC and 107.9 in Tulsa.