When the Houston Rockets went to the hack-a-Dre in the fourth quarter, the entire complextion of the game changed. It was enough for Houston to take the lead and hold on as the Rockets won 113-109.
Houston takes a commanding 3-1 lead with Game 5 on Tuesday night.
Late in the fourth, the Rockets decided to intentionally foul Andre Roberson. It was momentum changing. Roberson made only one free throw but while the score deficit didn’t change, the Thunder were really never able to get the stops they wanted and Houston held on.
“I kind of like it right now,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s not good for basketball, but it’s a rule and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Houston had the momentum and the lead, something Oklahoma City could never regain the advantage, leading to the demise of this game. It started a 3-point advantage and ended there when Roberson checked out with 3:02 remaining.
“This is a great opportunity for him to learn and grow through some of that,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.
Roberson finished 2-of-12 from the free throw line. He was 5-of-9 from the field, finishing with 13 points.
All of the ending negated a beautiful first half the Thunder played. They fired back and were defensively suffocating. They blocked 14 shots in the first half, five from Roberson in the first half.
Oklahoma City built a 14-point lead early in the third quarter. Houston responded with a 10-0 run before the Thunder finally hit a shot. They had missed 10 in a row during the sequence. Russell Westbrook was 0-of-6 in the third quarter, helping contribute to the scoreless stretch.
After the Thunder let an 11-point lead evaporate in the first quarter with Westbrook on the bench, things got even worst with their leader on the bench in the second half. Westbrook subbed out with 2:28 left in the third quarter with his team up 75-68, but by the time he returned with 9:42 in the fourth, the Rockets were up 82-79.
Westbrook took some wild threes in the fourth. One went down from 35 feet and cut the Rockets lead down to one. Oklahoma City pressed, and almost forced a turnover, despite a horrible push off by Harden. The Rockets were able to inbound the ball, get the ball down to Nene for the foul and plus-one.
Nene finished 12-of-12 from the floor for 28 points off the bench.
This loss rides slowly on Oklahoma City. For the third straight game, Oklahoma City led by 14 or more. Oklahoma City has to find a way to close these games and defend their leads.
Westbrook had a triple-double in the first half with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. He finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Westbrook was 5-of-17 in the second half from the floor.
Steven Adams added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Oklahoma City and Houston will take on Game 5 in Houston at the Toyota Center 7 p.m. and on TNT.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Bench Production: F
Oklahoma City’s bench only scored 22 points and were abysmal from the floor. 10-of-23 and five turnovers. Norris Cole was a series worst -18 in only nine minutes. There wasn’t a single bench player in the positive today. Nene outscored the entire bency by himself.
Thunder bigs must dominate: D
Nene ate and he ate. He ate until he was full then he ate some more. Adams had his best playoff game of the season and it was for naught as Nene dominated. Kanter was invsible and Taj Gibson was in foul trouble. Poor performance in a game Oklahoma City needed so bad.
Oklahoma City didn’t finish again. They saw the Rockets close the first quarter strong. They closed the fourth just like they did all of the others. Oklahoma City is the reason why they lost this game. Houston did enough but the Thunder had a chance to win this game and absolutely blew it.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!