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April 25, 2018

Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Game Five

Thunder - 107, Jazz - 99

BILLY DONOVAN: I think it took a lot of toughness, a lot of resiliency, especially being down 3-1, to keep fighting and find a way at the end of the third to be right there in the game. Give them a lot of credit. We're excited about another opportunity to play, extend the series, but we'll have to play a lot better than we did in the first half, and we're going to need more of 48 minutes like we did in the second half.

Q. Coach, you're down 25 around eight, nine minutes left. What happened?
BILLY DONOVAN: We kept playing. I think the biggest thing is we had too many breakdowns defensively, and I thought in the second half we had very, very few. And some of the breakdowns were communication, things that we've got to get done, and I think that they did that at a much higher level. We've got a lot of respect for Utah. You've got to be on point. They're a very, very good offensive team, and you've got to be on point in terms of your offense, moving the ball and making the right reads and the right decisions, and I thought in that first half, we did not do the things that we needed to do on a consistent enough basis, and from that eight-minute mark, I thought we were really, really good at doing the things we wanted to do.

Q. Coach, a lot gets talked about about momentum going into the postseason, whether you're having success going into the Playoffs or from game to game. Is this something that you guys feel like you can really ride the momentum going into Salt Lake City in Game 6?
BILLY DONOVAN: I don't look at it that way at all. I think it's a game that we just played. We need to make corrections. We need to figure out adjustments and changes and things we need to do a little bit differently and better and then this game will be behind us and we've got to get ready to go and play against a team that we have great respect for and is a hard place to play.

Q. Ever been a part of one like this?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, with this on the line, no, but I was on the Kentucky bench as an assistant coach when we were down by 35 in the second half and came back and won. But obviously it was a regular-season game. Yeah, I mean, our guys just kept battling. I think when we got it -- I saw us starting to -- we really -- I thought Russell generated and Paul generated a lot of life for our team. We were having a hard time scoring. We didn't shoot the ball well. I think we shot 42 percent in the first half on plays at the rim. The second half we finished much, much better at the basket. I think when we got a couple downhill drives, Russell made back-to-back threes, it just gave us some life, and when you're working as hard as you are defensively and you're struggling to score, it bleeds into some of those breakdowns defensively.

In the second half, we were better offensively, we played downhill, we got to the free-throw line, we moved the ball, we made some threes. Obviously Russell and Paul offensively were terrific. But I thought it really energized us defensively, as well.

Q. Where did you feel like the defense changed in the second half for you guys?
BILLY DONOVAN: I thought the communication was a lot better. I thought our rotations were a lot better. We got hurt a few times with Mitchell in the slot driving the ball to the room and taking it to the basket. But we didn't have what we had in the first half where there was just breakdowns and guys left wide open, and a lack of communication, and two players on one guy and no one is talking. Things happen quickly, and it's a lot harder than maybe I'm making it out to be, but we were on point in that second half of how we were guarding and what we were doing. I thought they really got into a great rhythm offensively shooting the ball because they had just these wide-open catch-and-shoot threes. In the first quarter they were 7 for 10, and I would say probably all 10 of them were open, and I felt like we did a better job in the second half. They were a little bit more contested.

Q. Pardon me if you've been asked this already, but I wanted to see, what did you think of Alex's fourth quarter minutes, and where did the trust come from to stick with him as long as you did in the fourth quarter?
BILLY DONOVAN: He's really -- I know we've talked a lot last year about getting better defensively, and he's gotten better defensively. The biggest thing is I trust him. They were trying to put him in some switches, and I thought taking him out there late in the fourth, putting Corey in there was just a fresher body. He had absorbed a lot of minutes. That group there at the eight-minute mark really had a great rhythm, and I didn't sub those guys, we just kept going with them, and I just told them if they needed a blow to let me know. But Alex has worked hard defensively, and he's gotten better, and the biggest thing with Alex defensively is he's disciplined, and he's, I think, got a much, much better feel after last year being from Spain and playing in the Euroleague. The game is just different, and I think it took him to time to figure that out, and I think this year he's gotten much, much better defensively.

Q. You used Melo differently in the fourth quarter. Do you see yourself doing that going forward?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, it was different. Obviously we were down by 25 points, and that group did an unbelievable job getting us right back in the game to start the fourth. In talking to those guys on the bench, they felt physically that they could continue to go. I thought we had a good rhythm and good flow going that was unique, so we just went with it. I don't think Russell came out in the second half, I don't think Paul came out in the second half. Those guys absorbed a lot of minutes, so it'll be very important here for us the next 24 hours to do what we can to get our legs back under us. But that group was just playing well.

Q. How much was the comeback -- I guess the team feeding on the emotions of the game in the moment, and can you expect to have that in Game 6?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, you know, I don't -- once tomorrow starts, like this is over with. You've got a whole different set of things, so I don't look at it like we're carrying any momentum. We've got to go in there and we've got to play and play better. This is a team that had us down by 25 points. Now, I'm obviously thrilled with the comeback and it was a great job, but you get down 25 points on the road, that's hard to overcome, and we were fortunate, our crowd got behind us and we made some shots, but I don't look it at like, okay, we're riding some momentum wave. I just don't feel that way. We've got to come back and do it again, and this has been this team's greatest challenge is the consistency to be able to come back the next game and do it again over and over and over, and that's what's going to be required to continue to advance the series.

Q. You made some changes; your pick-and-roll coverage in the second half, it seemed to be pretty effective. What allowed that to work so well?
BILLY DONOVAN: I just said before, I thought our communication in the first half was not very good, and in particular in the first quarter. They got off 10 threes, made seven of them, and there was guys wide open. Just a lack of communication. Two guys on one guy. We did a much, much better job communicating. I think it got compounded because we were struggling -- I think we shot 42 percent in the first half in the deep paint, and once we kind of made some shots, we did a better job defensively, and I thought our communication was much better.

Q. Why were you guys able to attack the basket so well with Gobert out beyond the obvious?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think we did that in the first half. We did a good job of that in the first half, we just didn't finish. Steven had a couple plays around the basket, Russell had one that went in and out. We were playing downhill. The first four, five, six shots that we took were at the basket, we just didn't finish plays, and I just tried to encourage them to keep playing downhill, keep attacking and keep being aggressive, and that's what they ended up doing. Fortunately for us, we scored a lot in that second half in around the basket playing downhill.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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