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Down both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and George Hill in the opening lineup, the Thunder figured to struggle mightily against the John Wall-less Rockets who had trounced them in the first of this two-game series. Theo Maledon took the reins on paper as the starting point guard, but all of the young pups–established ball handlers or not–were aggressive in pushing the pace and sharing the rock.
After setting the franchise record for threes made against Oklahoma City two nights ago, Houston tumbled back down to earth (6-25 3PA) in the first half and failed to match their first quarter total in the rematch as OKC went up 54-43.
The fun was encumbered by one–hopefully minor–development: Lu Dort never returned to the game after subbing out late in the first period, due to what the Thunder described as knee soreness. That didn’t stop the baby Thunder from dominating the lethargic Rockets, expanding the lead to as many as 30 points and never looking back behind the hustle of myriad non-starters including an absolutely effervescent Kenrich Williams (19 points, 6 rebounds, 7-8 FGA, 3-3 3PA).