Houston gets big win against Thunder
A lot of interesting stuff happened the first 3 quarters. We saw Josh Smith get playing time in the 1st quarter and actually contribute with 5 points. Houston was struggling offensively the entire game, shooting under 40% for most of the game (foreshadowing). Beasley scored 7 points, which was his lowest since his first as a Rocket.
In the third, OKC would reach it’s largest lead with 12 points. But Houston would eventually erase that lead with an unusual group of players. McDaniels played 18 minutes, the majority of them coming in the 3rd quarter and scored 10 points. Goudelock got his first legit minutes as a Rocket in the 3rd.
But the game came down to the 4th quarter. Houston was down by 2 to start the quarter. And Houston found itself up by 6 three minutes later. OKC as it turns out, leads the league in losses after being up after 3 quarters. But Houston’s last 4 losses were in games where they held the lead at some point in the 4th (including a loss to OKC on March 22nd). So it was really a battle to see which team could buck their trend.
For a while, it looked like OKC. The Thunder went on a 7-0 run to take the lead 100-95 with 7 minutes left in the game. But two crazy things happened the rest of the game. Firstly, the Rockets held OKC to 4 points over the next 6 and a half minutes. But they also were able to score on the other end as well for once.
Harden had 15 of his 41 points in the 4th. But late in the game OKC was determined to make players beat them. Waiters was denying Harden the ability to get the ball, which meant Beverly was forced to channel his inner Harden and nail a pull up midrange jumper that put the Rockets up 108-104. And then Capela was able to hit the dagger when OKC tried to trap Harden on the pick and roll, by then the Rockets were up 112-104 with 30 seconds left in the game. OKC would go on to score 6 more points by fouling players to extend the game, but the game was never in doubt.
So a big win by Houston. And this time, it was against a completely healthy team. Durant and Westbrook both played 37 minutes, even though they have the 3 seed locked up. I was expecting them to play the game. After all, you don’t want to rest your guys for the last 5-6 games of the season and have them being out of rhythm. But I didn’t expect them to play more than 30 minutes, and didn’t expect for them to play with the intensity they did either.
I have a theory about that. The OKC were trying to make it harder for Houston to make the 6th seed. Houston is still a long shot to make the 6th seed, but it’s actually in the realm of possibility. Memphis is falling fast. Portland has a tough end of season schedule. Houston now just has Dallas and 4 lottery teams for the rest of the year.
And if Houston actually can pull that off, they would face OKC in the first round. And of the 4 teams in the running for the 6th seed, Houston is probably the team they least likely want to see. Harden’s highest points per game average is against OKC. They don’t have that player that can shut him down like other teams do. And also, OKC’s tendency to turn the ball over plays right into Houston’s tendency to turn defense into offense. And Houston on the other hand matches up great defensively with OKC, with plenty of guys to throw at Westbrook and Durant.
It probably isn’t going to happen. The likelihood is that we secure the 7th or 8th seed and maybe win 1 game in the playoffs. But that would be a really interesting turn of events of it did.