The Jazz defeated the Thunder 115-102 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena on Saturday, taking a 2-1 series lead thanks to a rare triple double from Rubio. The Spanish guard, known for years as a pass-first distributor, recorded a game-high 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and became the first Jazz player since John Stockton in 2001 to post a playoff triple double.
After taking over the game with a succession of second-quarter baskets, Rubio later drained a buzzer-beating three to close the third quarter. Utah went on to build a 20-point lead in the final period and cruised to the victory.
Westbrook, meanwhile, was off all night, finishing with 14 points (on 5-17 shooting), 11 rebounds and nine assists. The 2017 MVP committed eight turnovers, posted a minus-25 in 37 minutes and failed to score a point or take a shot in the fourth quarter.
Thunder's Russell Westbrook on Ricky Rubio's strong Game 3 performance: "He made some shots. Too comfortable. I'ma shut that s--- off next game though. Guarantee that." pic.twitter.com/jHo9cbZt3n— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 22, 2018
Afterward, Westbrook vowed that the point guard matchup would play out differently in Game 4 on Monday.
"He made some shots,” Westbrook said, when asked about Rubio’s big night. “Too comfortable. I'ma shut that s--- off next game though. Guarantee that."
Rubio’s explosion was a long time coming. The 2009 lottery pick never made the playoffs during his six-year tenure in Minnesota, and he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2012. After being traded by the Timberwolves to the Jazz for a first-round pick last summer, he averaged a career-high 12.1 PPG, shot a career-best 35.2% from deep and dished out 5.3 APG to help lift the Jazz into the playoffs.
“I just changed my mentality and tried to be more aggressive,” Rubio said of his Game 3 scoring burst and his triple double. “I made some shots. I made a run. It helps a lot when you’re making shots. It felt great. … Having my name next to [Stockton’s] name is an honor. I don’t know what else to say. It’s huge. I have huge respect for him.”
Through three games, Utah has plenty to be pleased with in addition to Rubio’s breakout: rookie Donovan Mitchell hasn’t skipped a beat, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors have played well together in big lineups and Oklahoma City’s stars—Westbrook and Paul George—have struggled to consistently dominate. In fact, the Thunder’s offensive efficiency currently ranks 13th among the 16 playoff teams.
Westbrook told reporters that there was “a lot of s--- going on with my body,” but declined to specify whether he was injured. George has also been receiving treatment for a hip injury.