In a game that you could say is a must win, Russell Westbrook played fantastic defense and the Oklahoma City Thunder stunned the Houston Rockets 108-102 on Saturday night.
With the win, Oklahoma City improves to 46-34 on the season but remain seventh in the Western Conference playoff race as San Antonio and New Orleans also won on Saturday night.
Oklahoma City ended Houston’s 20-game home winning streak and the Thunder win the season series for the first time since 2013-14.
It appeared it could’ve all been done with as Houston was gaining momentum heading into the fourth quarter but Jerami Grant used all his might to will the Thunder into the lead. Grant fueled Oklahoma City’s 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter, which was capped on a Paul George jumper with 9:14 left in regulation.
Gerald Green threw in a floater, giving Houston the 92-91 lead with 7:09 remaining.
Oklahoma City would go on an 11-0 run to ice the game.
It started with a Westbrook pull up three. Patrick Patterson would hit the lay up and would be capped by a Westbrook lay up. When you looked up, the Thunder had built a 102-92 lead with 3:47 left in regulation
Houston went scoreless for more than four minutes, missing seven shots and committing three turnovers as Oklahoma City pulled away. The Thunder also blocked three shots in that span.
Houston would cut the lead 105-100 with 33.2 seconds remaining but Paul George and Alex Abrines would hit their free throws down the stretch to beat the Rockets.
The Thunder led by as many as 11 in the first half, but Houston used a 5-1 spurt take a 62-61 lead at halftime.
Westbrook finished with 24 points on 10-of-28 from the floor, seven rebounds and 10 assists. Steven Adams only played in 28 minutes but finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony was instrumental in the Thunder building a double digit first half lead. He was 3-of-3 in the first half from deep for 17 points. He finished with 22 points and six rebounds on the evening.
George struggled throughout the third but came up big in the fourth quarter. George finished with 24 points on 6-of-17 shooting, 3-of-7 from deep and was 9-of-10 from the free throw line tonight.
Oklahoma City now has to win one of their final two games to get into the playoffs. They’ll go to Miami on Monday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. If Oklahoma City wins, they’re in the playoffs. Lose and they’ll have to hope for a Nuggets loss or beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
Keys to the Game
Force Turnovers: B
Oklahoma City forced 17 turnovers tonight, leading to 22 points. That’s huge as the Thunder lead the league in points off turnovers. They have to continue to do this as they go forward. To do this against the Rockets is a good start.
Free Throw: A+
Oklahoma City took 10 more free throws than Houston tonight. Paul George went 9-of-10 from the line. Westbrook went 3-of-5 from the line. Holding the Rockets to only 23 free throws was the biggest thing tonight. It’s the lowest total for Houston since March 27 against Chicago.
Oklahoma City improved to 14-3 when three players scored at least 20 points each. They were in sync all night and really showed what they can do when they’re all clicking. They didn’t seem like they were forcing anything and it paid off in the fourth quarter.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!