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You couldn’t have scripted this game any better if you are an Oklahoma City Thunder fan.
This long running but ever evolving rivalry had it all: Chris Paul first half heroics, Clint Capela mosh pit diving into Steven Adams’ back, Russell Westbrook history making triple doubles, James Harden history making 3 point misses, and Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder playing dynamic clutch duo down the stretch for yet another epic Thunder fourth quarter double digit comeback win.
Oh, and most importantly: LOU DORT.
The little played but often hyped undrafted two way (not for much longer) rookie got his first ever NBA start and put the clamps on his fellow Arizona State alumnus Harden.
Dort played 32 minutes and was assigned to the perennial MVP runner-up for every one of those 1920 seconds.
The result? Harden shot 9 of 29, including 1 of 17 from 3 point range. That was not a typo. He tied the all-time record for most missed 3’s in a single game. A record previously owned solely by… James Harden.
While Dort’s prime time defensive showing against Harden was eye opening, Paul’s 27 first half points were jaw dropping, and the Gallo and Schroder tandem’s comeback charge was breath taking, every OKC vs Houston game narrative will always be cast within the shadow of Russell Westbrook.
From now until the time that Russ hangs up that ugly red Rockets jersey and comes back to don beautiful blue and orange duds for a final swan song in OKC, Thunder fans will root for two things to happen in every game against Houston: 1. Russ has a good game and 2. OKC comes away with a win.
Russ had a great game, scoring a highly efficient 32 points and joining LeBron James as the only two players in NBA history to record a triple double against every team in the league.
And OKC came away with not only a win, but maybe their most impressive win of the season considering the 17 point deficit and the absences of Adams, Nerlens Noel, Terrance Ferguson, and Abdel Nader.
The game scripts for the OKC Thunder vs Houston Rockets trilogy this season gave us a little bit of everything. It’s the rare instance where Part I sucked, Part II was the best of the bunch, and Part III wrapped the series up in perfect fashion.
Roll the post credits scene: James Harden alone in The Toyota Center, moonwalking into another bricked 3 pointer.
- The Thunder are now 2 games behind the Rockets for the 6 seed.
- 7 of the Thunder’s next 8 games are against teams with losing records.
- 4 of the Rockets’ next 6 games are against teams with winning records.
- OKC has the 3rd easiest remaining schedule of the 15 West teams. 5 game lead for the 8 seed. Playoffs are very likely.
- The rebuilding Thunder beat the contending Rockets on the road with these guys playing a combined 84 of a possible 240 minutes: 2 way undrafted rookie Lu Dort, #23 overall pick rookie Darius Bazley, 3rd stringer Mike Muscala, and 3rd stringer Deonte Burton.
- Something nobody ever talks about because the Russ and OKC storylines overshadow it: The Chris Paul Revenge Game. And unlike Russ and OKC, CP3 and Houston ended on bad terms.
- The only thing more offensive than Clint Capela’s out of control dive into Adams’ back was the Rockets’ broadcast team saying that Steven undercut Capela and that “Steven brought a little of it on himself.” Big yikes.
- The Thunder have one of the very best center 1-2 punches in the NBA between Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel and it’s one of the reasons they’ve been so successful. Today’s 1-2 punch at center now: Mike Muscala and Darius Bazley.
- Absolutely insane that Houston didn’t take more advantage of Adams and Noel’s absence. Everyone besides Russ settled for 3’s. Westbrook was the only one attacking the paint, and he got anything he wanted all day.
- Of all of Chris Paul’s incredible plays today, by far his greatest highlight is getting Russell Westbrook to laugh along with an opposing player in the middle of a hotly contested game.
- SGA was passive this game, scoring 13 points on only 10 shots. He did impact the game in other ways, though, with 10 rebounds and 3 steals.
- Harden “only” took 13 free throws today, most on fouls so soft that if the defender called them on himself at a pick-up game, the offensive player wouldn’t let him call it.
- I love so much that Gallo pulled a Harden on Harden and was rewarded 3 free throws.
- Harden missing a free throw after a clear clean steal by Dort is the ultimate Ball Don’t Lie.
- This Thunder team without Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel, Terrance Ferguson or Abdel Nader erased a 15 point deficit from a fully healthy Rockets team on the road in the matter of a few minutes. Just incredible.
- After trailing by 15 at the 7:18 mark of the 4th quarter, OKC closed the game on a 27-7 run to secure the win. Chris Paul was on the bench for most of that time.
- I have no idea which is the best Thunder game of the season: this win over the Rockets or the last win over the Rockets.
- I feel bad for Russ. He is playing his heart out every game and has been fantastic lately but the rest of the Rockets have been really bad. James Harden included.
- Up next: at Orlando on Wednesday night.