With 4 minutes left in Monday night time’s Recreation 6, the Thunder trailed the Rockets, 98-92. After Dennis Schroder was referred to as for an offensive foul, Chris Paul obtained hit with a technical that gave James Harden a free throw and pushed Houston’s result in six.
Oklahoma Metropolis might have folded there in that second, and its 2019-20 marketing campaign nonetheless would have been thought-about a hit. The Thunder weren’t anticipated to make the playoffs within the loaded Western Convention, not to mention practically land within the prime 4 of the standings. There would have been no disgrace in dropping to a Rockets crew with championship aspirations.
Besides, the Thunder have Paul — and although the 35-year-old could also be faraway from his athletic prime, his ability stage, basketball IQ and aggressive resolve have made him one of the best clutch participant in basketball this season.
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Over the ultimate 4 minutes of regulation, Paul hit two big Three-pointers, snagged a pair steals and calmly drained the free throws that put the Thunder forward for good. OKC completed Recreation 6 on a 12-2 run, finally successful by a closing rating of 104-100 and forcing a winner-take-all Recreation 7 on Wednesday.
Paul’s confidence was palpable. After one notably troublesome try from past the arc splashed by means of the online, he tapped Rockets ahead Robert Covington on the rear finish, virtually as if to say, “Good attempt, child. Higher luck subsequent time.”
This efficiency was a continuation of what Paul has been doing ever for the reason that Rockets traded him to the Thunder in alternate for Russell Westbrook final summer season. By the common season and playoffs, Paul has totaled 171 factors in clutch time, probably the most within the NBA, whereas capturing 52.5 p.c from the sector and 40.6 p.c from Three-point vary.
“When it will get to clutch time, fourth quarter, some individuals (are) constructed for it. Some individuals draw back from it,” Paul informed TNT’s Jared Greenberg in his postgame interview. “You noticed (Damian Lilliard), all that stuff. Some individuals (are) constructed for it, man. We’re gonna preserve hooping.”
Perhaps Paul’s feedback weren’t meant as a dig at Harden and Westbrook, however it was laborious to not see it that means contemplating Lillard eradicated Westbrook’s Thunder from the postseason in 2019. Neither Harden nor Westbrook did a lot down the stretch in Recreation 6:
Fourth quarter stats
Three-point discipline objectives
Westbrook turned the ball over seven instances in simply 27 minutes, together with a poor go to Covington on a vital possession late within the fourth quarter. He air-balled a midrange jumper with the rating tied at 100 and beneath a minute to go.
Harden’s line of 32 factors, eight rebounds and 7 assists appeared good within the field rating, however he additionally had 5 turnovers and appeared content material to let the offense run by means of Westbrook because the Thunder took management.
Watch this and inform me Harden wished the ball to determine the sport. You can’t give much less effort to get the ball. Three clips. (One is simply entrance row seat to schroeder drive). Its Recreation 6 of a playoff sport! pic.twitter.com/ELbNwcAFIZ
— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) September 1, 2020
The Rockets’ three wins within the sequence have come by margins of 15, 13 and 34 factors. However when it has been tight within the fourth quarter, the Thunder have prevailed. Hoping your crew is up by 15 or extra earlier than the beginning of the ultimate interval is not an awesome technique.
OKC heads into Recreation 7 understanding which participant will steer the ship in these key moments.
If Houston finds itself in that place, although, who will step up? It certain could be good to have somebody like Paul.