Oklahoma City got off to another fantastic start tonight in game three of the series against Houston. In desperate need of a win, the Thunder came out ready to go. The team did an excellent job at moving the ball around to find open shots. Russell Westbrook served as a facilitator during the beginning of the game, as he did not take a shot for the first few minutes. Oklahoma City jumped out to a big lead and held onto it heading into the second quarter.
The Thunder played the best second quarter of the season against Houston, but it still wasn’t enough to win the quarter. Oklahoma City has lost every single second quarter against the Rockets this year. However, the team was able to do just enough to hang around. Even though they lost the quarter, the Thunder still held a 65-58 lead at halftime.
Oklahoma City has struggled all season during the third quarter. It has cost them several times throughout the year, and it has even hurt them in the first two games of this series. The team managed to win the quarter by three points, which is what ultimately won the game. The Thunder struggled defensively during the end of the third and throughout the fourth quarter. As a team, OKC gave up way too many fouls which led to easy points from the free throw line for Houston. Russell Westbrook took control at the end of the game, and even though he missed some free throws, he did just enough to get the win for Oklahoma City.
Complete Game Fuels Victory
Throughout the regular season, the Thunder struggled to put together complete games. The team would look great throughout the first half, and then completely fall apart in the second. Oklahoma City is also known for playing a great opening quarter, and then struggling throughout the second and third, and then finishing the game strong. Very rarely did we see this Thunder team put together a complete game this season. However, when they did, they looked like one of the best teams in the league.
The Thunder finally put together a complete game during this series against Houston. In the first game, the Thunder looked great in the first quarter and then got blown out for the rest of the game. In game two, Oklahoma City played great for three quarters and then fell apart in the fourth quarter. Tonight, Oklahoma City got an early lead and they kept that lead for a majority of the game. There was a point in the fourth quarter where Houston took a one point lead, but the Thunder reacted quickly and took back control of the game.
Tonight was the first time the Thunder has won a third quarter against Houston all season. Turns out, it was a pivotal point of the game. Oklahoma City was able to play just good enough in the middle of the game to pull out the win in the end. The Thunder is one of the best teams in the league in the first quarter, and they are by far the best in the fourth. If this team can find a way to continue to play well in the middle of games, they just might find their way back into this series.
Westbrook Shows Up
A reporter asked Russell Westbrook during an interview if he was ready for the game tonight. His response, “I’m always ready”. Turns out, he was right. The Brodie brought his “A” game tonight, as he recorded another triple-double. He finished the game with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. Russell Westbrook is one of the only players to ever achieve back-to-back triple-doubles in the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook started off the game by dishing the ball out to his teammates for open looks. His team was shooting well, so he did not need to take any shots. Once the offense started to stall a little, he started to take control. He shot very efficiently during the beginning of the game, which only added on to what his teammates were already doing. Despite missing some free throws at the end of the game, the Brodie was nearly perfect tonight. The Thunder will need another performance like this from Russ on Sunday afternoon for game four.
Help Comes from Unlikely Sources
For much of the season, Russell Westbrook has had to carry the Thunder in a major way just to keep them in most ball games, let alone in order to come away with wins. In Games 1 and 2, the results were legitimately based solely off of how Russ played, but tonight was a different story.
Russell Westbrook had an incredible game, tallying back-to-back postseason triple-doubles, but it was the help he received from his teammates that ultimately fueled Oklahoma City to a win. Andre Roberson continues his streak of impressive games as he managed to score 12 points on 5/8 (62.5%) shooting to go along with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Roberson has been a question mark all season long offensively, but he has been as reliable as anyone in the first round matchup with the Rockets.
Another force for the Thunder tonight was Taj Gibson. In the first two games of the series against Houston, a lot of people felt that Gibson was not getting enough minutes, and tonight that changes. Taj played 8 more minutes tonight that he did in the first two games, and the extended play benefited both him as individual and the team as a whole. Gibson finished the game with 20 points, a personal-high since he joined the Thunder, while shooting 10/13 (76.9%). He also played some incredible defense on the night, specifically when he found himself in 1-on-1 situations with James Harden.
Without a doubt, Westbrook would not have been able to carry the Thunder to a win on his own. If Roberson, Gibson, and other role players for the Thunder are able to continue their success and step up their play, then Oklahoma City has a really good chance to tie the series at 2-2 on Sunday.
The Thunder will be back in action again on Sunday afternoon as they take on the Rockets for game four in Oklahoma City. The win tonight put Oklahoma City right back into this series. With a win on Sunday, the team will have the opportunity to head into Houston with a clean slate. The game will start at 2:30 PM CST and it will be televised on ABC. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Craig Hofeld and Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.