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On what will go down as the Lu Dort game, the Thunder were unable to take advantage of most everything going right for them in an elimination game against the Rockets. James Harden (17 points, 4-15 FG & 1-9 3P) had another pitiful offensive performance, and the offense/defense trade-off that has come with playing Dort all series vanished in a blaze of 30 points from the undrafted rookie (6-12 from three). But a failure to execute from the rest of Oklahoma City’s players matched Houston’s woes, with turnovers and cold shooting (and cold feet) keeping the game close all night before ultimately slipping away. Dennis Schröder’s 5-17 and Danilo Gallinari’s 2-6 shooting lines were the most glaring “where’d everyone else go?” examples from the box score.
In a topsy-turvy final stretch, there were many more flops, fouls, timeouts, reviews, clock resets, and commercials than there were competent basketball plays. Tied or within one score, the Thunder’s clutch magic ran out even as the Rockets’ star duo missed shots and turned the ball over in kind. Chris Paul (who had a triple double) came up short on a wide open jumper, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander turned down good looks, and a disastrous sequence finished things off. After three different huddles preceded the final inbounds play with 1.1 second remaining, Billy Donovan didn’t draw up a look that resulted in a clean pass. Steven Adams–who fans have begged Donovan to play more sparingly all series–was clearly not a lob threat after playing the entire fourth quarter and barely even catching an earlier lob attempt from Gilgeous-Alexander. In a play designed to spring Gallinari for a look, nothing was open, and a pitiful pass to Adams at the arc was broken up as the clock expired.
A bittersweet conclusion to the Thunder’s 2019-20 season, but one that was only made possible by this lovable team outperforming expectations after trading away Paul George and Russell Westbrook (who scored 20 and will advance to the second round for the first time without Kevin Durant as a teammate). In an upcoming offseason of unknowns for the NBA, how the Thunder move forward is uncertain as the team remains committed to an eventual rebuild. If this playoff core is dismantled, it had a good run.