Tip-Off: 2:30 PM CT
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
The Thunder got off to another hot start in Game 3, but the Rockets would not go away as they battled back to retake a lead early in the third quarter on Friday night. Far too many times has Oklahoma City found itself in this same situation, and it typically ended in some type of meltdown loss. That was not the case on Friday. The Thunder stayed composed, and every time Houston threw something in their direction, Oklahoma City dished something right back. The game came down to a last-second shot, which James Harden missed, and the intensity that everyone wanted in this series started to come alive.
Oklahoma City looks to tie up the series at two games apiece, and in order to do so, they need to continue to make improvements as they have in each game so far. Harden and the Rockets will be prepared to do everything they can to avoid heading back to Houston with the series tied, and the Thunder absolutely do not want to head out of town trailing 3-1, so this game will likely come down to whoever is willing to step up and make hustle plays from start to finish. Here are a few areas that could use adjustments for Game 4.
- Stay Out of Foul Trouble: For the second consecutive game, Oklahoma City struggled to keep Houston off of the free throw line. It is easy to blame officials, but when calls are not going your way, you have to adjust your strategy. The Thunder played some really good defense for most of Game 3, and they need to keep up that intensity for Game 4, but still avoid unnecessary fouls. The Rockets shot 33 free throws, 18 of which came from Harden alone, while the Thunder shot only 23, with 6 of those coming from Russell Westbrook in the final 1:06 when Houston was trying to make a comeback. Hopefully the officiating for Game 4 will allow for the more physical game style that the Thunder likes to play, but if not, Oklahoma City needs to be focus on avoiding the ticky-tack fouls that Houston is so good at drawing opponents into.
- Share the Ball: Russell Westbrook does a really good job at distributing the basketball when necessary, but one thing that helped fuel the Thunder to a win in Game 3 was their ability to move the ball as a team and find one another for quality shots. The Thunder finished with 24 assists, 11 coming from Westbrook, but 7 other players helped make up the other 13. Oklahoma City’s offense is at its best when it is sharing the ball as opposed to playing isolation ball, and strategic ball movement will be key to putting up points against Houston in Game 4.
- Finish Strong: The Thunder has made a bad habit lately out of melting down at the end of quarters, specifically at the end of the game. Houston has a high-powered offense that can score a lot of points in a short amount of time, so Oklahoma City cannot afford empty possessions and lackadaisical defense, specifically in crunch time. The Thunder needs to start off the game strong like they have for the most part during the series, and then they need to continue with that intensity until the final buzzer sounds.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.