April 24 (UPI) — The Utah Jazz made the Oklahoma City Thunder unravel mentally during a 113-96 victory.
Jazz forward Joe Ingles was often at the center of the scuffles during the Game 4 win Monday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ingles and Paul George had a back-and-forth in the first quarter of the first round Western Conference playoff series. George was inbounding the ball on one play. Ingles walked up very close to defend and George shoved him away with his right hand, earning a technical from a referee who was standing right next to him.
The Jazz forward answered back at the end of the quarter, when he made a 3-pointer. He put his body awkwardly close to George in a taunting fashion, as George tried to push him away.
Jazz guard Ricky Rubio was tasked with getting into Russell Westbrook’s head. The 2016-2017 NBA MVP was in foul trouble early as Rubio used Westbrook’s out-of-control effort against him.
Westbrook picked up four first-half fouls — all on Rubio — as a result of his aggression. One of those plays happened in the first quarter, when Westbrook drained a shot and immediately got up on Rubio body-to-body. Rubio took a dive on the floor, drawing a foul on the Thunder star.
The frustration from both sides ultimately boiled over into the final quarter. Westbrook reached in on Jae Crowder as he was dribbling down the court, committing a hard foul. Crowder and Carmelo Anthony briefly got into it and had to be separated. Crowder hit Steven Adams with an elbow during the scuffle. He was given a technical and ejected from the game.
“That’s just what you’re going to get with a playoff team,” George told reporters. ”It’s playoff basketball. It’s going to get chippy. It’s going to get physical. We’re in it for the fight.”
The game featured seven technical fouls, in addition to Crowder’s ejection.
“This is the playoffs,” Rubio said. “It’s going to be war. You are playing seven games and you have to win four. We know that it’s going to be another war next game and we just have to be tough, but at the same time mentally ready for that. We are not backing down, but at the same time, we know that we have to be ready for the fight and respond.”
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 33 points in the win. George led the Thunder with 32 points. Russell Westbrook scored 23 points and had 14 rebounds, while Anthony netted 11 points.
Ingles scored 20 points and had four assists and three rebounds for the Jazz.
“We gotta win,” Anthony said. “I mean, there is nothing to it. We just got to win. We can sit here and try and say what we got to do, and what we didn’t do and what we did do, but it comes down to having a will to win that game on Wednesday and forcing a Game 6 back here in Utah and taking it from there.”
“Most importantly, Wednesday is a very important game. I think we all know that.”
The Thunder and Jazz meet again for Game 5 at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.