We’ve got one more everybody. One more. —Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY — Fans showered Russell Westbrook with deafening boos as his name was called during the starting lineups ahead of Game 4 at Vivint Arena.
The Oklahoma City star was viewed as public enemy number one in Salt Lake City after making his bold declaration Saturday directed toward Ricky Rubio following OKC’s Game 3 loss to the Utah Jazz.
“He made some shots,” Westbrook said of Rubio. “Too comfortable, but I’ma shut that (expletive) off next game, though. Guarantee that.”
Jazz players, notably Rubio, shrugged off Westbrook’s postgame comments then went out and played team basketball.
Utah took a commanding 3-1 series lead with Monday’s 113-96 victory using that team-first approach.
Rubio ended with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds after logging the franchise’s first playoff triple-double since 2001, but it was rookie guard Donovan Mitchell who dominated the Thunder in Game 4.
Mitchell went off for a new career playoff high 33 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He passed Karl Malone’s Jazz rookie postseason single-game scoring record of 31 points in 1986. The rising star is averaging 27.5 points in his first four postseason games.
“We don’t quit,” Mitchell said. “The big fella (Rudy Gobert) said we’ll be fine. ... It’s just a testament to the character of this team.”
Westbrook played with black KT tape on his upper body, despite being a full participant during practice and shootaround throughout the day. He struggled with 23 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and five turnovers while going 7-for-18 from the field.
“Nothing has been brought to my attention of what he may be dealing with,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said beforehand. “Nothing has limited him from doing the things that we’ve done in practice or shootarounds.”
From the opening tip, both teams were extremely aggressive as Westbrook took on the personal challenge of defending Rubio, even clapping in his face near midcourt. Westbrook ended the first half with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists but also picked up four fouls against Rubio while shooting 5 for 13 from the field.
Four technical fouls were called on both teams during the first two quarters, as Quin Snyder and Joe Ingles were T’d up for Utah in the second quarter. OKC’s Paul George and Steven Adams were also hit with techs at 8:22 in the first and 8:25 in the second for aggressive play.
Ingles started the game 0 for 4 from beyond the arc before nailing three consecutive triples in the final 1:43 to help the Jazz close the half on an 11-3 run, capped by a driving layup from Mitchell to end the half leading, 58-52.
The Jazz outscored the Thunder 32-21 in the third quarter to enter the fourth with a 90-73 edge as a confident Mitchell spearheaded the charge, posting 11 points throughout that stretch.
Tempers continued to flare in the fourth quarter as the Jazz led by as many as 21 points.
This time, Gobert and Raymond Felton were both hit with technicals at 7:55 after Gobert went down from being hit in the genital area.
Then, Jae Crowder grew frustrated at 5:30 and charged at Westbrook after he made stiff upper body contact with him to stop the fast break.
Westbrook was charged with his fifth personal foul, but Crowder got ejected for elbowing Steven Adams in the face, which led to a midcourt scuffle.
Fans yelled “Westbrook sucks! Westbrook sucks!” in disapproval. Even on a night with Westbrook and the Thunder playing as combative as possible, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Jazz.
George would end with a team-high 32 points and six rebounds but the Thunder were held to 39.3 percent shooting as a team. Gobert was again a dominant force with 16 points and 10 boards while Ingles finished with 20 points off five 3-pointers.
Game 5 is set for Wednesday, April 25 in OKC as the Jazz have a chance to put away the Thunder on their home court.
“We’ve got one more everybody,” Mitchell told the home crowd after the win. “One more.”