Despite trailing by 26 in the second quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder was able to storm back for the biggest comeback in franchise history and defeat the Rockets in Houston 117-112.
The Thunder and the Rockets each got off to a hot start as both teams seemed content to run the floor on offense while not paying much attention on defense. There were a number of lead exchanges early in the game, and Paul George’s 13 first quarter points kept OKC hanging around, but 7 turnovers by the Thunder allowed the Rockets end the period on top 28-25.
The second quarter looked like a completely different ball game for Houston as the Thunder continued to turn the ball over, could not hit a shot, and let the Rockets run all over them. Houston shot 12-27 (44.4%) from 3 for the entire first half, and James Harden scored 17 of his 25 first half points in the second quarter as the Rockets outscored the Thunder 42-23 in the period to take a 70-48 lead into halftime.
The Thunder came out to a different tune in the third quarter as the defense was able to force some tough shots and turnovers by the Rockets, which OKC quickly turned into points. After hitting their first 8 shots of the second half, the Thunder cut the deficit to 80-69 with 6:34 left in the period.
OKC continued to dig in to the Houston lead, and Dennis Schröder scored 13 points in the final 4 minutes of the third to help the Thunder tie it all up at 90-90 at the end of the quarter.
The start of the fourth quarter was a continuation of the third as the Thunder quickly took the lead and pushed it to 6 points, their largest of the night. Houston answered, though, and the Rockets were able to retake the lead and go up 103-98 with 6:51 to go. Then again, it was OKC’s turn as they swung the game back in their direction to go up 108-103 off a Jerami Grant steal and dunk with 4:28 to go.
Once again, the Rockets answered, and with 3:43 left in the game, Chris Paul hit two free throws to tie it up at 108-108. Houston took the lead momentarily, and they led 112-111 with 31.8 seconds to go off a James Harden floater, but it was not over yet. Russell Westbrook streaked to the basket for an easy layup to give OKC the lead, and after Harden missed a three-point shot, Paul George gathered the rebound, and the Rockets were forced to foul. George hit both, and Houston turned the ball over off their inbounds attempt. George hit another couple of free throws, and that was all she wrote in Houston as OKC won 117-112.
Thunder Player of the Game
Once again, Paul George led the way for Oklahoma City, and his performance tonight was one to remember. George racked up 45 points on 12-22 (54.5%) from the field, including 6-14 (42.9%) from 3, and 15-18 from the free throw line (83.3%). He also grabbed 11 rebounds, handed out 3 assists, and grabbed a steal. Some of his most notable possessions were on the defensive end as he stepped up to the task of guarding James Harden. His efforts on both ends of the floor were incredible, and in the end, his four consecutive made free throws in the final few seconds of the game sealed the deal for the Thunder.
A Couple of Quick Thoughts
- Let Russ be Russ: Good Russ. Bad Russ. You never really know what you get from Russ. Tonight, Russell Westbrook was either really good or really bad with very little in between. He racked up his 9th consecutive triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, but he had 10 of the Thunder’s 19 turnovers. After playing a pretty pitiful fourth quarter, he managed to score the layup that put the Thunder on top for good, and then he came down on the other end and shut Harden down on a three-point attempt. While Westbrook’s play often includes a number of mistakes, you cannot deny his contributions. He needs to continue to clean up his game, as he has had a rough season by his own standards, but Thunder fans could show more grace and realize that what he does for this team is much more than shooting percentages.
- Never Give Up: For the second time this season, the Thunder set a franchise record for largest comeback. On December 5th, OKC rallied from a 23-point deficit to defeat the Brooklyn Nets, and then after trailing by 26 tonight, they came back to win. One thing that is completely different about this team compared to a year ago, and that is that they do not quit. The resolve to win games is one that is unmatched, and nights like tonight prove that OKC has what it takes to hang with the best teams in the NBA.
Back at Home
The Thunder is headed back to Oklahoma City where they will host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. The Thunder is 2-0 against the Blazers so far this season, and they defeated Portland 123-114 in OKC just a few weeks ago. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT, and it will be televised on FSOK and broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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