OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook unleashed the same fury he had in Game 4, just a little more efficiently this time.
Westbrook was controlled, and he was too much for Utah. Silent and serious, the reigning league MVP scored 33 of his 45 points in the second half, and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from 25 points down to fight off elimination and beat the Jazz 107-99 in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
”It was win or go home,” Westbrook said. ”Regardless of what is going on in the game, you have to give yourself a chance to win, and I thought our guys did a good job of that tonight. They did an amazing job of sticking together.”
Westbrook got sidetracked during Monday’s Game 4 by a one-on-one matchup with Ricky Rubio. He was in foul trouble for much of Oklahoma City’s loss and was later fined $10,000 and assessed a technical for an altercation late in that game.
With Oklahoma City trailing 3-1 in the series, he focused up in Game 5 and helped keep the season alive. He made 5 of 16 shots in the first half, then 12 of 23 in the second.
Westbrook also had 15 rebounds and seven assists. Paul George added 34 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who forced a Game 6 in Salt Lake City on Friday.
”We stopped playing defense,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. ”We stopped getting back. Our offense got stagnant. They made adjustments and we didn’t make the right adjustments back. We will watch the film and figure out what went wrong, but from my analysis right after the game, we just stopped getting back in transition and they just fed off of that.”
Jae Crowder scored a career playoff-high 27 points, Mitchell had 23 and Joe Ingles added 16 for the Jazz, who still have a 3-2 lead in the series.
They realize it probably should already be over.
”We need to do a better job,” Rubio said. ”Of course, you have to give them credit. They made a lot of shots. They took their pride and forced a Game 6. But we are going home and we’ve got to be strong and be confident.”
Oklahoma City took advantage after Utah’s post players, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, got into foul trouble. Both finished with five fouls, and Oklahoma City was able to get to the basket consistently for the first time in the series.
Gobert’s absence, in particular, caused problems.
”It’s a different feeling when you don’t have big fella back there,” Mitchell said. ”It’s hard that we put all the pressure on him. We have had success but eventually it’s not going to work and we have to play better defense as guards ourselves.”
Utah opened the second half on an 8-1 run to go up 64-42, and Crowder’s 3-pointer made it 71-46 with 8:34 left in the third quarter.
Westbrook made back-to-back 3-pointers, then after a 3-point play by George, Westbrook made a jumper and a layup to cut Utah’s lead to 73-60 and bring energy back into the arena.
Gobert picked up his fifth foul with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Westbrook’s 3-pointer tied the game at 78 heading into the fourth quarter. He scored 20 points in the third.
Westbrook scored immediately at the start of the fourth to finally put the Thunder in front. Back-to-back 3s by Westbrook and Alex Abrines put Oklahoma City up 96-91, and a jumper by Westbrook with 1:24 left put Oklahoma City up 107-99.
”We just never quit,” George said. ”We never quit. I can’t pinpoint one thing we did wrong. We just never got down on ourselves, regardless of the lead they built and the shots they were making. We could surge back and we did.”