Like I said yesterday, it’s been surprising that he’s had two consecutive games that he’s been in foul trouble. —OKC coach Billy Donovan, on Steven Adams
SALT LAKE CITY — For the second straight day, and not once, but twice, OKC coach Billy Donovan brought up Steven Adams’ foul trouble in Games 2 and 3 that limited him to an average of 24 minutes per game.
Who knows, perhaps Donovan was hoping to get the officials’ attention prior to Game 4 to lay off his big guy.
“Like I said yesterday, it’s been surprising that he’s had two consecutive games that he’s been in foul trouble,” Donovan said of Adams in the shootaround interview.
Then, in the pregame interview, he brought it up again, reminding everyone that Adams had never been in foul trouble two games in a row this season, saying “We haven’t had in 82 games, a situation where he has been in foul trouble for two consecutive games.”
Adams’ absence was noticeable Saturday night when he went to the bench early in the second quarter with his team up by 11, the Jazz outscored the Thunder 30-14 over the final nine minutes to take a 58-53 halftime lead.
Nevertheless, Donovan was confident Adams could avoid foul trouble in Monday’s game.
“With his IQ and the way that he communicates with the officials and the way the game’s being officiated, he usually adjusts,” Donovan said. “He’s always been a guy who tries to make corrections when he knows he needs to make corrections. He’s a big part of our team.”
In Monday’s game, Adams stayed away from the fouls, going foul-less in the first half, although he did pick up one of four technical fouls whistled in the first half, for slapping at Rudy Gobert.
NOT A MUST-WIN: The OKC coaches and players, with one exception, didn’t look at Monday’s game as a must-win game.
“I never look at it that way,” Donovan replied when an Oklahoma City reporter asked if his team was in a must-win situation after Monday’s shootaround. ”We just need to go out and play better.”
As for motivating his players, Donovan said there was little he could do to get them more ready.
“These guys are professionals and have been in all sorts of situations,” he said. “Utah’s going to come out and play hard, our guys are going to come out and play hard. But you have to not only be playing hard, but you have to execute and be disciplined and a lot goes into that.”
When veteran Carmelo Anthony was asked about it being a must-win game, he replied “We have to have that mentality. 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 about it being a must-win game, he thought about it for several seconds before replying with a succinct, “Yes.”
GAME NOTES: Game 5 in Oklahoma City will be played Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 7:30 p.m. MT starting time . . . The Thunder went with their same starting lineup of the first four games with Russell Westbrook and Corey Brewer on the guard line, Anthony and Paul George at forwards and Adams at center . . . In last year’s playoffs, the Thunder lost a first-round series to the Houston Rockets in five games. In Game 4 in Oklahoma on April 23, the Rockets took a 3-1 lead with a 113-109 victory and closed it out two days later in Houston.