clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Game 7: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets - Preview & Game Thread

New, comments

Oklahoma City have a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs

Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Six Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Game 6 was a game that went down to the wire. The Thunder and Rockets slugged it out for all 48 minutes. Oklahoma City were able to win the game behind Chris Paul’s impressive fourth quarter performance.

Chris Paul has been exceptional for the Thunder all season long and Paul continued his strong work against the Rockets in Game 6. Paul notched fifteen points and knocked down crucial shot after crucial shot.

Game 7 promises to be an epic affair. Oklahoma City are playing to make the second round and beat the odds yet again. The Rockets are playing for their legacy. This current iteration of the Rockets is old. The front office lacks the flexibility to make the moves needed to keep the competitive window open. The time is now for the Rockets.

The fixture starts at 9:00 (EST) p.m. and it will be broadcast on ESPN. The game can also be viewed on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The game will be available on NBA League Pass for international viewers.

Russell Westbrook has been on a minutes restriction during the series so far. It will be no different in Game 7, Westbrook will be on a minutes restriction. This news was reported by Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report

Game 7 is the ultimate arena of playoff basketball. All of the tactical adjustments, the lineup choices and coaching decisions fade into the background. The final 48 minutes boil down to a team’s character.

At this point in the series, the two teams know each other incredibly well. The Thunder will know that Westbrook should be allowed to let it fly from the perimeter. Oklahoma City also know that hard help rotations on Eric Gordon are costly mistakes.

There is no ace in the hole for the Thunder to play. Billy Donovan has played every single card and now it is down to the players to deliver when it matters. Game 7 is a crucible of pressure. The pressure can do funny things to a player’s psyche.

As a Thunder fan, I am well accustomed to watching Oklahoma City fall apart in the series deciding games. The Thunder crumbled in Game 7 against the Warriors in a series where Oklahoma City were up 3-1.

I watched the Thunder fall apart in 2018 and 2019. On both occasions, the team’s most important players failed the Thunder. Paul George was outplayed by Joe Ingles in 2018. Russell Westbrook lost his head against Portland and his bad decisions cost Oklahoma City the series.

I have said this throughout the season but this Thunder team just feels different to previous years. This version of the Thunder has shown an inner steel when the going gets tough. Mental fortitude has been a hallmark of the Thunder this season.

Chris Paul is the tone-setter for the Thunder. Paul’s competitive, relentless style has imbued Oklahoma City’s play in the playoffs so far. Oklahoma City have won games in this series by fighting back from deficits and beating the Rockets on execution late in games.

There have been a few occasions when Oklahoma City have displayed remarkable resolve during the regular season but there is one game which stands out in my mind. The Thunder travelled to Toronto in late December and nobody expected much from that game.

The roster was injury hit at that moment in time; Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari were both unavailable. In contrast, the Raptors had played really well during the early portion of the season and looked like a team that was streets ahead of OKC.

Oklahoma City were able to win that game late on due to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul stepping up in a big way. In that game, the Thunder’s traits were evident. The Thunder were tenacious and tough against a contending team.

There has been a lot of talk about the talent disparity between the two teams. Houston have two MVPs and a cast of role players who made deep playoff runs. It is fair to say that the Rockets are a more talented team on paper.

However, the Thunder have shown an ability to overcome the difference in talent by being resilient and clinical in the closing moments of games. We hear a lot about Rockets’ mistakes gifting OKC wins but the Thunder have put themselves in position to profit from Rockets’ errors time and time again.

The main difference between Houston and Oklahoma City is mentality. The Rockets have played exceptional basketball at times but they lack consistency. Their stars dropped the ball in Game 6. Westbrook made bad decisions and Harden was passive when Houston needed.

Oklahoma City can win this game, I have no doubt about that. The Thunder have the steel to win pressure-filled, intense games. Game 7 is just another challenge for Billy Donovan’s men to overcome.

#THUNDERUP

Start Time; 9:00 p.m. (EST)

Broadcaster: ESPN, Fox Sports Oklahoma