Donovan Mitchell, Jazz Blow Out Russell Westbrook, Thunder in Emotional Game 4

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 23: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz goes to the basket past Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half during Game Four of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 23, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are in full control of their first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Utah destroyed Russell Westbrook and the Thunder 113-96 in Monday's physical Game 4 at Vivint Smart Home Arena to take a 3-1 lead and put itself on the brink of advancing to the second round for the second straight year.

Donovan Mitchell was brilliant with 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists behind 13-of-28 shooting from the field in a game that was largely defined by emotions and scuffles. The Jazz announced the guard surpassed Karl Malone's franchise record for the most points in a playoff game, which the Hall of Famer set in 1986 with 31 points. 

Any good series has an overarching storyline, and Westbrook set the stage for a heated battle when he guaranteed he was "gonna shut that s--- off next game" following Ricky Rubio's triple-double in Utah's Game 3 win, per Royce Young of ESPN.com.

The guarantee led to a notable response from Mitchell:

Monday's contest was chippy right away, as Westbrook picked Rubio up full court on Utah's first possession and didn't hesitate to get in the point guard's grill. However, he was overaggressive in the early going and committed four fouls in the first half, which limited his physicality down the stretch.

Elsewhere, Paul George picked up a technical foul for shoving Joe Ingles in the first quarter, foreshadowing what was to come. With plenty of jawing on both sides, Jae Crowder, Rudy Gobert, Raymond Felton, Ingles, George and Steven Adams were each assessed technicals.

Tensions turned from a simmer into a boil in the fourth quarter when Crowder was ejected. He celebrated in Westbrook's face, prompting a response from Carmelo Anthony and Adams. Crowder swung his arm and made contact with Adams' face before he was ejected.

Despite the challenge that provoked some of the testiness, Westbrook couldn't stop Rubio from posting 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds, which was indicative of his Thunder's failure to prevent the Jazz offense from setting the tone with a balanced attack.

Mitchell fueled Utah with his ability to spin in the lane and contort his body at the rim to consistently finish past Oklahoma City's frontcourt, but he was far from the only one doing damage.

Derrick Favors unleashed impressive footwork in the post, Rudy Gobert benefited from a number of lobs and close looks at the rim, and Ingles and Royce O'Neale found their touch from deep with seven combined triples, which in turn created additional driving lanes for Mitchell.

They all finished in double figures, highlighted by 20 points from Ingles, and provided plenty of support alongside their go-to rookie teammate.

Even when Oklahoma City was ahead in the first half, it felt like it'd be a matter of time before the home team took control.

The Thunder were playing with fire considering many of Utah's looks were wide open in the early going, and the Jazz seized control when some of them started to fall. They outscored OKC by double digits in the second and third quarters and used their stingy defense to limit everyone but Westbrook and George throughout the contest.

Westbrook did what he could with his characteristic relentlessness attacking the basket and an intensity that appeared to be dialed up even more than usual after issuing a challenge to Rubio. George also took the reins of the offense for stretches, frequently gliding into the lane and finishing with a soft touch.

Westbrook finished with 23 points, 14 boards and three dimes, while George posted 32 points and six rebounds, but they combined for 11 turnovers while forcing the issue due in part to a lack of support elsewhere.

Oklahoma City is supposed to feature a Big Three, but Anthony did not hold up his end of the bargain in Monday's defeat.

The Syracuse product was invisible for the majority of Game 4, failing to produce much-needed support when Utah sent additional attention toward Westbrook and George. His 5-of-18 mark from the field—and 0-of-6 from three—stood out, but the Thunder as a whole were an abysmal 5-of-26 from three-point range as they desperately tried to close the gap.

The series now shifts back to Oklahoma City for Wednesday's Game 5, and the Thunder will need to find a way to win at home to extend their season. If they don't, they will lose in the first round for the second consecutive year.

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