To be quite honest, he’s been on a difficult end the last two games of some of those fouls. —Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan, on Steven Adams
SALT LAKE CITY — Oklahoma City center Steven Adams averaged just under 33 minutes per game this year and played nearly 37 minutes in the Thunder’s opening-game win over Utah in the best-of-seven series.
However in the two most recent games, both Jazz victories, Adams’ minutes have been limited because of early foul trouble as he played just 22 minutes in Game 2 and 26 in Game 3. That has affected OKC’s rebounding totals and also given Utah center Rudy Gobert more freedom on both the offensive and defensive ends.
It’s a frustration to both Adams and his coach Billy Donovan, who points out that his center was never in foul trouble in two consecutive games during the regular season.
“To be quite honest, he’s been on a difficult end the last two games of some of those fouls,” Donovan said. “I’m not saying they’re not fouls, they’re probably fouls that could have been left alone or gone either way. But we have to adjust to that and he has to adjust to that. We haven’t had two games this year where we’ve had to battle foul trouble with him like we’ve had to in Games 2 and 3.”
As for Adams, he admits he never thinks he fouls, saying, “I have a problem with every call to be honest. But they’re calling it and it’s a valid call.”
Adams says he’s not going to be any less aggressive because of the recent foul trouble.
“It’s been lame because I want to be out there on the floor. But you can’t ease up the aggressiveness and I haven’t done that.”
MORE BOARDS: During the regular season, the Thunder were the fifth-best rebounding team in the NBA and the No. 1 offensive rebounding team. However, so far in the series, the Jazz have been out-rebounding the Thunder by eight per game 55.7 to 47.7 per game. On Saturday night, the Jazz had a whopping 56-37 advantage.
Part of that has to do with Adams being off the court more and because of the strong play of Gobert and Derrick Favors inside for the Jazz and the Jazz guards crashing the boards (11 each for Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell in Game 2). It’s a concern for Donovan along with some other issues on the court.
“We’ve got to do a better job of rebounding the basketball collectively,” Donovan said. “We’ve had some situations where we’ve had some guys leaking out, we’ve had some guys who have to get back in there and help rebound. The things that have hurt us the past two games are turnovers, transition points, rebounding and free throws. Those things have been a challenge, and we’ve got to do a better job.”
MUST WIN?: When Carmelo Anthony was asked if Monday’s game was a must-win for the Thunder, he gave a typical non-definitive answer.
“We have to have that mentality,” he said, then added, “I don’t want to put that emphasis on this game being do or die. We want to win this and we’re going out to try to win this game.”
When Adams was asked the same question he paused for four to five seconds and replied, “Yes.”
GAME NOTES: The game time for Wednesday’s Game 5 is 7:30 p.m. MDT. Both teams have struggled with turnovers, with the Jazz averaging slightly more per game, 16.3 to 15.7. For the second straight game, the Thunder bench outscored the Jazz bench, this time by a 34-17 margin. In Wednesday’s game, OKC’s reserves had a 21-16 advantage, while in Game 1, Utah’s bench had a 34-16 edge, even though OKC won the game by eight.