You’ve got to see what’s going on with the game. We’ve got to be prepared to use every player. —Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan
SALT LAKE CITY — When Oklahoma City went on its 32-7 run over the final eight minutes of the third quarter Wednesday night to turn a Utah Jazz runaway into a tie game and eventual OKC victory, one of the Thunder’s top players was on the bench the whole time.
Carmelo Anthony, who averaged more than 16 points a game in his first season with the Thunder, played the first four minutes of the third quarter when he made three free throws but he didn’t play the rest of the quarter when the Thunder went on their huge run.
Coach Billy Donovan said he went with what was going well, with Jerami Grant taking Anthony’s place.
“It was a unique situation — we got down by 25 points in the third quarter and to erase that in an eight-minute period and to have the game tied going into the fourth quarter we just decided to go with that group,” he said. “Games dictate a lot of decisions you have to make. It was not our game plan going into the game rotation-wise to play Russell, Paul and Steven 24 straight minutes — that hasn’t really happened this year.”
Donovan wouldn’t say Friday morning whether Anthony would see more bench time for Friday night’s game.
“You’ve got to see what’s going on with the game,” he said. “We’ve got to be prepared to use every player. A guy like Josh (Huestis) came off the bench and did a nice job for us for a couple of minutes in the first half. However, it’s going and who’s playing well and matching up — everybody on our team needs to be prepared to contribute.”
Donovan also talked about his team keeping its emotions in place unlike Monday night when it was whistled for four technical fouls, same as the Jazz.
“This is a great environment to play in, there’s a lot of energy and passion here,” he said. “For us, it’s a second elimination game and obviously you’ve got to hold your ground and compete, but you’ve also got to control your emotions and be able to execute. A lot of times when you’re unable to control your emotions it becomes very difficult to be able to execute.
Game time Friday is 8:30 p.m. If the Thunder win, they’ll play the Jazz back home in Oklahoma City Sunday afternoon.