The Oklahoma City Thunder came from behind by 15 points in the third quarter to tie the series with the Houston Rockets at 2-2 with a 117-114 decision that once again came down to the wire.
Surviving the Storm
The Houston Rockets were hot from three for a lot of the first half, but they finished the second quarter missing their last 7 attempts from downtown. The tide turned in the third quarter, however, as Houston knocked down 8 consecutive threes to take a 15-point lead over OKC with 6:19 left in the third period.
The Thunder was able to weather the flurry from downtown, however, as they outscored the Rockets 17-5 in the final 5:34 of the third quarter that was capped by a Dennis Schröder buzzer beater from three.
Houston is going to hit shots. This is nothing new. Knocking down 8 threes in a row is impressive for anybody, though, and that would have been an easy moment for the Thunder to fold. They stuck with it, however, and being able to fight through that deficit is just further proof of this team’s clutch abilities.
At 35 years old, Chris Paul is well past his prime. Because of his style of basketball, though, he’s still able to play a high level, and he’s a major reason the Thunder is where they are right now.
After just 4 first-half points on 2-of-6 (33.3%) shooting, CP3 answered with a big second half to finish with 26 points on 10-of-19 (52.6%). His 14 points in the third helped fuel the rally after being down by 15, and he scored all 8 of his fourth quarter points in the final 1:52 of the game.
Old by NBA standards or not, Chris Paul does not care. He has consistently been the league’s most clutch player this last season, and his efforts were huge in the Thunder’s win tonight. If OKC manages to pull out two more wins over Houston, you can bet it will be on the back of Chris Paul.
Credit the Bench
The Thunder has a really solid bench unit, but the issue with them is their youth. Dennis Schröder is a finalist to win the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year Award, but after him, OKC’s youth typically means inconsistency in games. That was not the case tonight, however.
After being outscored by an average of 13.5 points per game in Games 1 and 2, the Thunder’s second unit has turned it around to outscore the Rockets by 9 in Game 3 and 30 in Game 4. Dennis Schröder’s play has been the primary reason for the turnaround, but Darius Bazley and Nerlens Noel deserve some credit as well, scoring 7 and 6 points respectively.
Their numbers weren’t anything crazy, but their contributions were just enough to make the Rockets concerned about them, and ultimately, it was a complete team effort that fueled OKC to the win.
Thunder Player of the Game
Dennis Schröder followed up a fantastic Game 3 with yet another incredible performance as he scored a team-high 30 points on 10-of-16 (62.5%) from the field, including 4-of-7 (57.1%) from three, and 6-of-7 (85.7%) from the free throw line. He added in 3 assists and a rebound, as well.
Perhaps the only criticism of Schröder’s play in Game 3 was his inefficiency at times, knocking down just 2-of-10 (20.0%) from downtown, but he cleaned it up in Game 4 and was everything OKC needed him to be.
All Tied Up
The Thunder’s Game 4 victory ties the series with Houston at 2-2, and now OKC and Houston play a best-of-3 series to finish things out. The Thunder definitely has the momentum right now, but the Rockets can get hot at a moment’s notice, so this one is destined to come down to the wire.
Tip-off for Game 5 on Wednesday is set for 5:30 PM CT, and it will be televised on TNT and Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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