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Game 4 preview of Thunder vs. Rockets

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Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

Before Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets, I initially thought this was the most pathetic playoff series in Oklahoma City Thunder history.

Chris Paul finally showed up in Game 3, and Lu Dort guarding James Harden was spectacular.

The team also struggled with Houston’s small-ball mentality, so here are some things the Thunder need to do to tie the series up in Game 4:

Chris Paul needs to show up, again

In Games 1 and 2, it seemed Chris Paul was nowhere to be found. Statistically speaking, Paul was there as he averaged 17.0 points on 44.8% shooting, as ESPN’s Royce Young pointed out.

In Game 2, Paul had a minus-36. In Game 3, he was a game-high plus-15.

“I think I needed to play with better pace,” Paul said to Young. “Be more aggressive. Take shots when they’re there. And be better defensively.”

Hopefully, Paul can show up again and be a dominant force in Game 4.

Billy Donovan’s coaching

Billy, start Lu Dort and leave him in the game.

Lu Dort was marvelous against James Harden. The rookie has been unfazed while protecting James Beard during the series, and it’s been impressive.

What doesn’t make sense is that Billy Donovan didn’t play Dort when The Beard went to the bench. If Harden is out on that court, Dort should play every single second Harden does.

Dort can defend Harden just fine. Donovan needs to understand that Steven Adams or Nerlens Noel aren’t required, and Dort doesn’t need help protecting The Beard.

I don’t know how many times I need to say this - Dort has been so good. Harden is shooting just 20.8 percent from beyond the arc in the last two games.

Honestly, Adams and Noel need to sit this one out. The Thunder successfully ran a wing-oriented lineup with guard-on-guard screens. Just stick to that and OKC can win the series.

Injuries

CBS Sports reports Russell Westbrook (quad) and Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) will be unavailable for Houston.

Gametime

Game 4 tips off at 3 p.m. CT and will be shown on TNT and Fox Sports.