|Thunder take new life into Game 6 vs. Jazz|
SALT LAKE CITY -- After a huge Game 5 comeback that sent the first-round Western Conference series back to Utah for a sixth game Friday, the Utah Jazz tried to rationalize the finish of Wednesday's game as an aberration.
On the other side, the Oklahoma City Thunder tried to move on from their come-from-behind victory while also explaining why the team that came back from a 25-point deficit was more representative than the team that fell behind by 25 points in the first place.
"Once tomorrow starts, this is over with," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after Wednesday's victory staved off eliminaton. "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, but I don't look at it like, 'OK, we're riding some momentum wave.'"
The Jazz lead the series 3-2 and return home to Vivint Smart Home Arena trying to close out the Thunder and not have to return to Oklahoma City for Game 7.
"They have a lot of pride," Utah point guard Ricky Rubio said of the Thunder and especially stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George, who were dominant during Oklahoma City's comeback stretch. "They are not going to give up easy. They took pride and forced a Game 6, but we are going home. We've got to be strong and be confident."
Even with the collapse, Utah should be confident going home.
In their two home games in the series, the Jazz outscored the Thunder by 39 points in the 73 minutes played by Westbrook. Utah big man Rudy Gobert has helped slow Westbrook's attacks to the rim.
It was Gobert's foul trouble, in part, that helped Oklahoma City come back from 71-46 less than four minutes into the third quarter to win 107-99.
"It's a different feeling when you don't have big fella back there," Utah's Donovan Mitchell said. "It's hard that we put all the pressure on him. We have had success but eventually it's not going to work and we have to play better defense as guards ourselves."
Rubio has been another of the big keys of the series, averaging 20.3 points and shooting better than 41 percent from the floor in the Jazz's three wins but 11.5 points and 28.1 percent shooting in the two losses.
Wednesday's loss was a tough lesson for Utah, which is looking to advance in the playoffs for the second consecutive season despite losing Gordon Hayward to free agency in the offseason and looking like a franchise in rebuild mode after a rough start.
"It's the playoffs," Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. "We have to be mentally strong and the game isn't over until it's zero on the clock. I think we kind of relaxed in the second half and they got going."
Since trading for George and Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder have been maddening at times, looking underwhelming for much of the season but also flashing periods of greatness, as they did late in Game 5.
"We've got to come back and do it again, and this has been this team's greatest challenge," Donovan said. "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."