It actually wasn’t fairly, however the Rockets discovered a strategy to win Wednesday night time’s Sport 7 towards the Thunder and keep away from what would have been an embarrassing first-round flameout.
The back-and-forth contest got here to a screeching halt with quite a few sloppy performs, timeouts and replay opinions within the fourth quarter. Each Houston and Oklahoma Metropolis didn’t make a area objective try within the closing minute. That sequence went a little bit one thing like this:
Thunder: Missed shotRockets: TurnoverThunder: Missed shotRockets: Missed shotThunder: Blocked shot, turnoverRockets: Made one among two free throwsThunder: Missed free throw, retain possessionThunder: Turnover
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On the ultimate play of the sport, the Thunder have been unable to even cleanly inbound the ball. P.J. Tucker and Russell Westbrook ensured the go from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would not attain Steven Adams.
Whew. Deep breath. Listed below are three takeaways from one other thrilling Sport 7:
James Harden with the … clutch protection?
Instantly after the win, ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth famous Harden hadn’t loved a “typical offensive night time.” That was placing it kindly.
Harden scored 17 factors on Four-of-15 capturing (1-of-9 from Three-point vary) and as soon as once more struggled with the feisty Luguentz Dort. The Harden haters have been salivating, able to ship all these memes that had been saved of their drafts over the earlier 48 hours.
Nevertheless, with fewer than 10 seconds to go and the Rockets holding a one-point lead, Harden swatted away Dort’s Three-point try.
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It was an undeniably clutch play from Harden, and if that ball discovered its well beyond his left hand, Houston gamers might need been packing their luggage.
“Offensively, I performed like s—. Excuse my language,” Harden advised Hubbarth. “I could not make a shot. Turning the ball over. Simply doing every part that was not speculated to occur. However I simply stored sticking with it. My teammates give me confidence all through the course of video games. Defensively, I needed to make a play.”
Lu Dort, an unlikely playoff hero (effectively, virtually)
And that is why Harden’s block on Dort was so large.
The 21-year-old racked up a career-high 30 factors, hitting six Three-pointers as Rockets defenders largely left him open on the perimeter. His stunning capturing contact, along with his usually robust protection on Harden, set him as much as be OKC’s unlikely hero.
“Dort gave me about three coronary heart assaults tonight,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni stated.
Sadly for Dort, he wanted only one extra to go down, which Harden refused to let occur.
Nonetheless, Dort deserves credit score for taking part in an impressive sequence and displaying he ought to be a part of an NBA rotation for years to come back.
Rockets’ supporting solid steps up
Whereas Harden and Westbrook (understandably) garner quite a lot of consideration, remember concerning the function gamers.
Tucker, all the time undersized at middle, battled with Adams all night time. Eric Gordon scored 21 factors and did a stable job defending Chris Paul. Robert Covington was Houston’s participant of the sport with 21 factors, 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
Robert Covington in Sport 7:
He joins LeBron James and Draymond Inexperienced as the one gamers with 20+ factors, 10+ rebounds, 5+ threes in a Sport 7 in NBA historical past. pic.twitter.com/OFpCpvaIhK
— StatMuse (@statmuse) September Three, 2020
The Rockets wanted everybody to outlive a hard-fought sequence towards the Thunder. That will not change as Houston makes an attempt to upset the top-seeded Lakers within the Western Convention semifinals.