We’ve got to win, there’s nothing to it. —OKC forward Carmelo Anthony
SALT LAKE CITY — For the last few days, the Oklahoma City Thunder players and coaches have downplayed the “must-win” questions they’ve been getting, mostly from their own media.
Now they must take the questions seriously after heading back home with a 3-1 deficit to the Utah Jazz in their best-of-seven series following Monday’s 113-96 loss. Only 11 teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.
The Jazz and Thunder will meet Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. MDT at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We’ve got to win, there’s nothing to it,” said OKC forward Carmelo Anthony after the Monday defeat. “We can sit here and say what we’ve got to do, what we did do or didn’t do. But it comes down to having the will to win the game Wednesday and forcing a Game 6 back here in Utah.”
“As Melo said, Game 5 is obviously a must-win for us,” added Paul George, who has been the Thunder’s best player in the series. “At this point we’ve got to give it everything we’ve got. We have to approach this game like it’s Game 7 and see what happens there and keep this playoff run alive.”
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan tried to put a positive spin on his team’s predicament with a “never-over-till-it’s-over” refrain.
“It’s a seven-game series, first team to four. They’ve got three wins right now and we’ve got a chance to play again here,” Donovan said. “We’ll go back and regroup. This team has always been resilient. They’ve battled really hard and competed and I know they’ll be excited to play We’ll have to be able to sustain what we’re doing for the whole 48 minutes, and that’s our challenge.”
The Jazz know full well the series isn’t over yet and are trying not to pile on the Thunder or get them riled up.
Coach Quin Snyder downplayed the Russell Westbrook-Ricky Rubio duel, saying, “It’s not about an individual matchup. We have a lot of respect for how good they are.”
“We’ve got to go in with the same mentality,” said Derrick Favors. “They’re going to come out and be physical and play hard and play with a lot of energy. We’ve just got to make sure we match that and keep our composure, just have fun and play. They’re a good team. They’re tough to beat at their place, so we’ve got to make sure we go in and play with a lot of energy and match their physicality.”
“They’re going to come out ready to compete and play hard,” added Royce O’Neale, who contributed 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench Saturday. “It’ll be a hard-fought game from the jump. We’ve just got to match their energy and do what we do.”
The series will end if Utah wins Wednesday, and the Jazz will go on to play the winner of the Houston-Minnesota series, which stands 3-1 in favor of the Rockets.
If the Thunder win Wednesday, the two teams return to Utah for a Friday night game at Vivint Arena. Then if the series goes to seven games, the final game will be played Sunday in Oklahoma City.