Thunder Clamps Down in Fourth Quarter, Wins on the Road in Houston
In a game the Thunder absolutely needed to win, the defense showed up at precisely the right time. After trailing the Rockets by three entering the fourth quarter, the OKC defense held Houston to 8-of-21 (38 percent) shooting over the final 12 minutes, outscoring the Rockets 28-19 and escaping with a 108-102 victory. Oklahoma City is now one win away from clinching a playoff berth after taking the season-series (2-1) against Houston.
Russell Westbrook led the way for OKC with 24 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, and 4 steals — as well as some superb fourth quarter defense on James Harden. Paul George contributed 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Carmelo Anthony rounded out the OK3 scoring effort with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Harden had 26 points and 9 assists, followed by 17 points and 9 assists for Chris Paul. Five Rockets scored in double-figures, but the team couldn’t get much going in the final frame. The loss snapped a 20-game home winning streak for Houston.
The win pushes the Thunder to 46-34 with two games remaining in the regular season. With the Nuggets, Pelicans, and Spurs also victorious tonight, OKC remains seventh in the Western Conference ahead of Monday’s game in Miami.
39.6: The Thunder came away with the win despite shooting just 39.6 percent from the field. The Rockets hit 47.4 percent of their attempts.
30.3: OKC hit just 10-of-33 from beyond the arc, good for just 30.3 percent. Houston went 14-of-37 from distance — 37.8 percent.
+10: The Thunder shot 10 more free throws than Houston, going 26-of-33 for 78.8 percent. There were some key misses in the fourth quarter that kept it close. Regardless, it was an improvement on the season-average effort from the line.
+1: OKC won 42-41 on the glass, including a 15-6 advantage on the offensive boards.
11 & 18: Just 11 turnovers for OKC, compared to 18 for the Rockets. The Thunder turned the Rockets’ turnovers into 22 points.
-6: The Rockets’ bench outscored OKC’s by a tally of 26-20. Acceptable.
12 & 8: There were 12 lead changes and eight ties.
The OK3 of Westbrook, George, and Anthony had a generally solid effort in the win. Their stat lines:
Russ: 24 pts, 7 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl, 10/28 FG, 1/3 3P, +3
Westbrook struggled with his shot, going just 10-of-28 from the field. However, he scored 7 points in the fourth quarter and stepped up on the defensive end while matched-up with Harden. He fought through screens and forced turnovers with regularity, holding Harden to 1-of-5 shooting over the final quarter. We don’t say this often but Westbrook’s biggest impact tonight came on defense. Weird.
His fourth quarter defensive highlights:
PG13: 24 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 6/17 FG, 3/7 3P, +3
George had 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the first half, looking poised and comfortable on the offensive end. However, he went just 2-of-7 in the second half, including 1-of-4 in the fourth quarter. As per usual, he made his impact defensively. He went 9-of-10 from the free throw line, as well. You’ll take it, even if the offensive inconsistencies remain a mystery.
Melo: 22 pts, 6 reb, 7/14 FG, 3/6 3P, -7
Melo came out blistering hot, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter. He went 1-of-7 from that point forward, quickly putting to rest the idea that he’d found a spare bottle of Michael’s Secret Stuff. Even still, it was one of his better performances recently — despite being torched on the defensive end.
PG and Melo highlights:
Big Steve. Steven Adams dropped 12 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes of action, finishing as a -4. He left the game in the first half due to getting hit in the face and later left again to ride a bike after falling and being slow to get up. He wasn’t on the floor for OKC in the fourth quarter, although Billy Donovan said post-game that it was a personnel decision.
Jerami. Another great night off the bench for Jerami Grant. He scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, finishing his night as a +7. He was a part of the Thunder’s closing lineup in place of Adams.
2Pat. Nothing about Patrick Patterson’s stat line stands out (4 pts, 2 reb, 1 stl) but he was instrumental in the win. He ran the power forward position to open the fourth quarter, remaining in the game until Melo checked back in with 4:50 to go. Over the span with Patterson on the floor in the fourth, OKC turned a 3-point deficit into an 8-point lead. He was a +14 on the night.
Poor Alex. Alex Abrines was handed a number of open looks tonight, yet he shot 0-of-7 from downtown in 27 minutes off the bench. He still managed to end up as a +6 on the evening.
The Other Guys. Five Rockets scored in double-figures: Harden (26), Paul (17), PJ Tucker (16), Gerald Green (14), and Clint Capela (10).