The Oklahoma City Thunder traveled to Houston to take on the Houston Rockets in their Christmas Day matchup. In a back and forth affair, OKC could not hold off James Harden’s 41 points as they took the 113-109 Christmas Day loss.
Both teams started out cold offensively to open the game, but OKC’s tempo took control as the Thunder got out to an early lead. Houston turned the ball over 6 times in the first 5 minutes, giving the Thunder the momentum on defense. James Harden started to heat up late in the first, finishing the quarter with 11 points. Paul George couldn’t get his rhythm in tact, as he started out 1-8 from the field. Steven Adams helped keep the margin close by hitting 4 of his first 5 shots. Russell Westbrook ended the quarter with a monster block on James Harden to silence the crowd with the game tied 22-22 at the end of the first.
Both teams traded baskets to start the second, and OKC’s post defense turned into transition offense which allowed them to pick up the tempo as Westbrook scored a quick 8 points after scoring only 2 in the first. OKC converted 14 of their points off Houston turnovers. Clint Capela had a career game down low, grabbing a Christmas Day record 23 rebounds, 5 of those on the offensive end in the second quarter. Dennis Schröder had a dime alley-oop pass to Adams for the slam, but Harden closed the quarter with 10 straight points to close the margin to 60-52 at the end of the first half.
Steven Adams set the tone in the second half with an early block, offensive rebound, and a quick basket. Capela’s career night of rebounding allowed Houston to convert on second chance points, which killed the Thunder’s defensive momentum. Houston opened the half with an 8-0 run, disrupting OKC’s pace. Eric Gordon and James Harden both hit a three to give Houston the lead. PG responded with one of his own, which kept the Thunder’s confidence up after a barrage of Rocket threes. OKC was able to regain the lead going into the fourth 88-86.
There was not a single basket made for the first two minutes of the fourth until Terrance Ferguson hit a corner three. Clint Capela had back-to-back monster slams which got the crowd off their feet. Austin Rivers made two three’s off the bench to give Houston their largest lead of 11 points. Jerami Grant and Russell Westbrook responded with deep threes, which put the game within five. James Harden scored 7 straight points late in the fourth, and Houston never looked back. The Rockets took the win 113-109.
Thunder falls to Rockets 113-109— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 25, 2018
STEVEN: 8/11 for 17p
Next: Friday @ PHX
Thunder Player of the Game
Steven Adams had his hands full down low with Capela and Nene all over the boards. His presence kept the game within reach, scoring 17 points and adding seven rebounds. His scoring ability has certainly improved as the season progresses. His defensive efforts on Christmas Day allowed OKC to collect a season high 11 blocks.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Should this be PG’s team? Paul George, as of late, has been playing MVP-caliber basketball. With that said, it has been proven by the Westbrook-Durant tandem that two MVPs on the same team does not necessarily work. Does Westbrook need to take an even lesser role than he currently has? If PG stays this hot, Donovan may have to consider a new game plan for Westbrook.
- Adams an All-Star? Steven Adams, if held off the roster, would be considered an absolute All-Star snub. Sure he doesn’t get 23 rebounds in back-to-back games like Capela, but his consistency on the floor both offensively and defensively serves as the backbone of this team. Remember, he was voted the toughest player in the league by all 30 GMs.
- Late Game Antics: If you watch these recent games closely, OKC has gone into the fourth with the lead the majority of the time. After the first 4 minutes of the fourth, the lead seemingly disappears into thin air, forcing PG and Russ to come in a pick up the slack from the bench. OKC needs to develop, or pick up off waivers, more shooters to come off the bench. In a seven game series, right now, OKC does not have the shooting to fend off Houston in the playoffs.
Friday in Phoenix
After playing 3 games in less than 4 days, the Thunder gets a brief break before they head to Phoenix to take on the Suns on Friday night. The Thunder is 3-0 against the Suns already so far this season, and they will go for the sweep on Friday. Tip-off is set for 8 PM CT and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.