Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio has been ruled out for the remainder of Friday’s Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder with left hamstring soreness, dealing a significant blow to a Jazz squad looking to close out the Thunder at home and avoid having to return to Oklahoma City for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.
The hamstring has been an issue on and off for Rubio for the past few months, but it hadn’t yet flared up in Utah’s opening round series. Midway through the first quarter on Friday, though, the Jazz’s starting point guard pulled up, headed back to the locker room, and was promptly ruled out for the duration of the contest.
Rubio had yet to score in seven minutes of floor time before checking out, though he had dished three assists and grabbed one rebound. Oklahoma City led 13-11 when Rubio exited, and finished the quarter with a 22-18 advantage.
The 27-year-old Spaniard has been a key contributor to Utah’s 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven opening-round series, entering Friday averaging 16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 34.7 minutes per game, while largely playing solid defense on Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
With their starting point guard sidelined, the Jazz will have to rely more heavily on the playmaking gifts of rookie star Donovan Mitchell and swingman Joe Ingles. Backup point guard Dante Exum has largely looked ill-equipped for significant facilitating responsibilities through the first five games of the series, so coach Quin Snyder might look elsewhere for additional juice on the ball, with slashing combo guard Alec Burks and steady reserve point man Raul Neto on the list of options.
This is why you don’t want to blow 25-point leads in the second halves of closeout games: the longer a series goes, the greater the chances that something unforeseen, and potentially quite bad, could happen. We’ll have to wait to find out whether this particular bad beat is one that haunts the Jazz well beyond Friday night.
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