Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Series Recap

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With all of the dramatics of Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook swapping uniforms and teams last season, this series lived up to the hype. It wasn’t pretty. Rather, it was gritty, heart-wrenching, and dramatic. But the Houston Rockets survived seven games in this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston moved onto the Western Conference Semifinals following this 4-3 series win. 

Game seven was the most dramatic of the series, leading down to the final seconds of regulation. And it wasn’t James Harden’s heroics on offense, but a defensive stop that will be remembered. 

Series Recap: Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 

Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder Down to the Final Seconds 

Both sides in this series traded blows until the final seconds of game seven. Throughout the deciding game, Harden, an offensive wizard struggled to find his shot. He shot 4-15 from the field, only 1-9 from three-point range, but sealed victory for the Rockets by blocking a three from Luguentz Dort at the buzzer. 

Only in the dramatics of the NBA Playoffs do we see one of the league’s best shooters win a game with a blocked shot. 

Shooting and Defense Tell the Tale 

Shooting and turnovers tell the story of this series. Houston got out to a 2-0 series lead thanks to Harden’s 37-point performance in game one and after making 19 of an NBA-record 56 three-point attempts in game two. 

Oklahoma City pushed games three and four to overtime. In game three, Paul and the Thunder scored the first 12 points of the extra period en route to a 119-107 victory. Game four was the Dennis Schroder show. He scored a career playoff-high 30 points to rally back from a 93-80 Rockets third-quarter lead. 

Westbrook returned from injury in game five, providing a boost to Houston on both sides of the ball. In three games he averaged 14.7 points 6.3 rebounds, and 4 assists. Defensively, Houston’s team defense was the deciding factor in this series. 

Houston Rockets Win the Turnover Battle  

Through seven games, the Rockets averaged only 12.7 turnovers per game to the Thunder’s 17. Houston also averaged 9.3 steals per night versus Oklahoma City’s 5.3. Not only did Houston wreck havoc forcing turnovers, but the team also capitalized on those opportunities. 

Houston averaged 20 points off turnovers, ranking second in the NBA in the first round. Oklahoma City ranked last in points off turnovers at 11.6 per game. 

Additionally, as was expected, Houston fired three-pointers at a historic rate. The Rockets averaged 51 three-point attempts, connecting on almost 36 percent of them. On the flip side, the Thunder attempted just 36.6 threes at a 32.8 percent rate. 

Top Performers 

Despite scoring only 17 in the final game, Harden continued his dominance and is easily the MVP of this series. ‘The Beard’ averaged 29.7 points per game on better than 46 percent shooting. He also added 8 assists, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per night. Harden topped at least 30 points in five of seven games this series. 

Robert Covington was another bright spot for his defense. The power forward averaged 2.4 steals, 1.6 blocks, and 5.7 rebounds. While he only scored 13.3 points per game, Covington shot 50 percent from both the field and three-point range.  

Notably, Eric Gordon added 18.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. 

Paul kept the Thunder right in the mix throughout the series with his 21.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.6 steals each night. Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 17.3 and 16.3 points per game, respectively. 

Up Next for Houston 

Following this lengthy first-round battle, the Houston Rockets are gifted with a matchup against Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and the Los Angeles Lakers. The No. 1 seeded Lakers topped the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. 

Houston and Los Angeles met three times in the regular season, with the Rockets taking two of these contests. This Western Conference Semifinals matchup began Friday, September 4, with Houston taking game one 112-97.

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