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The Thunder’s starters struggled from the opening tip to the 4th quarter, particularly Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (4 points, 2-8 FG), Danilo Gallinari (1 point, 0-5 FG), and Luguentz Dort (6 points, 3-16 FG, 0-9 3PT). Despite their offensive struggles early on, the Thunder were able to get the game within 3 points by halftime, but it was an entirely different game after that. First, the Thunder wasted a huge opportunity to build on their 2nd quarter success and the Rockets went on a 28-6 extended run. Then, Dennis Schröder was ejected for a “low blow” on PJ Tucker, who was also ejected for head-butting Schröder. Any chance of the Thunder coming back from down 20 points was pretty much lost when Schröder was ejected. Before his ejection, Schröder had 19 points (6-13 FG, 3-8 3PT) and was by far the best player for OKC.
Not much happened after that point except the Rockets continuing to build on their lead. The Thunder have had some difficult games versus Houston and this one was reminiscent of Game 1. The Thunder have adjustments to make, but there were some marked anomalies too. For example, Gallinari scoring 1 point. I don’t think that’s ever happened to him. Additionally, Lu Dort has not been a liability offensively to the extent that he was today. He needs to limit his shot attempts and stop shooting 3-pointers with such unchecked confidence. Instead, he should opt for driving to the rim when the Rockets give him space.
Once again, the Thunder find themselves at a pivotal point in the series. The “good” news is that Russell Westbrook doesn’t seem like himself yet so that is one less problem for OKC to worry about. The bad news is OKC only has one shot to get it right or the team will be sent packing.