By Connor MacKenzie @grandepadre94
Being down as much as 26 in the first half has a way of inspiring (more/less frustrating) players to respond. In this case for the Thunder, specifically Paul George, the response was loud and clear. Oklahoma City found themselves down 70-48 at the half shooting 18-44, and 3-12 from deep. For Thunder teams in recent memory, it is probable this would not have turned into a victory. However, this season has been a dramatic shift of urgency and team chemistry. The Thunder went on to out score the Rockets 42-20 in the 3rd Quarter, nearly equalling their total from the first half.
OKC then shot 22-45 overall and 10-22 from deep in the second half. This was quite the answer that nobody on Houston could respond to.
When the second half began, OKC came out with a high sense of urgency to get stops, rebound and push the pace. Jerami Grant started 0-5, but had some great defensive plays that lead to buckets and kept the lead for the Thunder. The tip of the scales came to Thunder’s favor when George hit a deep 3 to total 13 points in the quarter, and Schroder proceeded to score 11 points in a row to get the Thunder to tie the game at 90 going into the 4th.
The Thunder rode the seesaw down the stretch of a game for the ages and down 111-112, Westbrook splits defenders and coasts in for a layup to lead 113-112. After a missed step back jumper and 4 free throws from PG, the Thunder secured their 10th win in 11 tries and improve to a 36-19 overall record.
One thing that cannot be overlooked was the level of patience the Thunder had in the second half. They were decisive in pushing the pace or slowing down for quality shots. A healthy dose of Adams screens surely helped give Thunder players the room necessary to operate.
Rockets point guard Chris Paul had a quiet 18 ponts, 10 rebounds and 9 assists performance. He had some good looks in the 4th but could not cash in and had some timely errors that the Thunder took advantage of in sequence.
Houston guard James Harden struggled from the field shooting 11-28 from the field, 6-16 from deep but 14-15 from the charity stripe. He and the Rockets were firing on all cylinders in the first half, but could not get enough quality looks in the second to keep pace with OKC and ultimately let them back in the game. The Rockets shot 16-45 on 3s and 37-86 (43 percent) overall.
George finished with 45 on 12-22 shooting, 11 rebounds and 3 assists. Westbrook tallied his 9th triple double in a row, now tied with Wilt “the stilt” Chamberlain for most consecutive triple doubles all time. He recorded 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds (10 turnovers). Westbrook has truly taken a different approach to each game in letting the offense flow to him with attacks to the rim, post-ups, but most noticeably allowing Paul George to operate more often, particularly in crunch time.
George’s tear continues as he’s contributed over 30 PPG in 9 of his last 11 and has not shot below 40 percent from deep in a month.
The Thunder pounded the Rockets on the glass with a 63-49 advantage.
The Thunder have one contest before heading to the all star break,which happens to be against a divisional rival in the Portland Trail blazers. The Thunder are 2-0 against Portland, a perennial thorn in Thunder fans sides, but OKC has had their number so far this season. Damian Lillard and company undoubtedly will look to improve their record before the break.