The Thunder completed an unlikely comeback against the Rockets in their final home game of the season, overcoming a 13 point 4th quarter deficit to grab the game at the end and win, 112-111. Russell Westbrook and Paul George led the comeback, and through a combination of timely shooting, smart defense, and a little luck, OKC took the final one against the Rockets, winning the regular season series, 3-1. This game also followed the pattern of the previous game where OKC completed a 26 point comeback to win on the road.
With the Rockets, not playing at the hyperspeed we saw when they crushed the Suns in part by hitting an NBA-record 27 threes, they still showcased why they’ve been the most dangerous team in the 2nd half of the season. Their blend of systematic offense combined with purposeful defense build small leads each quarter, which gave them some cushion to work with in the 4th.
But just as OKC did against Houston last time, their defense went to work. With greater confidence and awareness, they held James Harden to zero makes in the 4th quarter. Harden’s night overall was sub-par by his elite standards (39 points on 11-28 shooting, 5-15 from three), but the lockdown on him in the 4th was critical. Overall, the Rockets shot only 28% from the floor and 18% from three to go along with 4 turnovers.
But none of it would have mattered had OKC not been able to convert on the other end, and once again Russell Westbrook came to play. Using the 3-point shot — his personal nemesis for most of this season — OKC caught the Rockets 8 minutes in and took the lead. Westbrook would finish the quarter with 13 points (out of his 29 overall), including 3-5 from three, to go along with 2 assists. And the last one was a doozy.
With OKC desperately trying to make up a 4 point deficit with under 30 seconds to go, Westbrook hit a cover-your-eyes-it’s-good! three to pull them within one. Following 2 Harden free throws and a Westbrook dunk to keep it at a one point deficit, OKC needed a little bit of luck. They got it. Harden, who has taken over 800 free throws this season and made over 700 of them, missed.
And then we saw something seen about as often as the tuatara — Westbrook actually showed restraint, patience, and purpose while under pressure. With under 10 seconds remaining and no timeouts, he busted a trap, found an outlet, reclaimed the rock, and with his 10th assist on the night, scoring him yet another triple-double, he found OKC’s most consistent and best player this year in Paul George in the corner, only guarded by the smaller P.J. Tucker.
Here’s your look.
It’s kind of remarkable, and not the last shot only. The entire final 1:37 was textbook in how to give yourself a chance to win despite trailing by 2 scores. Westbrook worked for easy shots at the rim twice, they didn’t give up any easy scores on the other end, and they were ready to capitalize when the mistake was made. Furthermore, that final sequence was done without a timeout and the clock running down, and there were about 5 points where we could have seen OKC fall into trappings we’ve seen them do before in the form of hasty passes, lack of awareness of traps, and long, contested threes that don’t need to be taken yet. It was downright Spurs-ian.
And it gives the Thunder a little bit more to build on heading into tomorrow night’s game, where the Bucks are reportedly planning on resting Giannis and Brook Lopez.
As for tomorrow? Perk has got your back.
He better!— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) April 10, 2019