For the fourth game in a row, the Houston Rockets came up strong in the fourth quarter no matter what they say about Russell Westbrook’s clutchiness; down 77-73 after three quarters, the Rockets were up five in the last minute. Steven Adams pulled a nifty stunt, missing a second free throw which Westbrook turned into a three-pointer. The Rockets responded with a barrage of free throws, and it ended with Westbrook near the circle and Patrick Beverley apparently giving him the stink-eye. Houston 113, Oklahoma City 109, and the scent of elimination is in the air.
Then again, the miraculous aspect of all this was that Adams made the first free throw; he was 2-5 from the stripe. Still, this was better than Andre Roberson, upon whom Mike d’Antoni chose to inflict The Hack. Dre hit two of eight, which was bad enough, but he’d already missed four. Ultimately, the Thunder managed to connect on only 18 of 32 from the stripe, a dismal 56 percent. Westbrook contributed only one miss, hitting 12 of 13, and had already collected a triple double by halftime, ending with 35-14-14. Still, he shot only 10-28.
This did not quite offset overall poorer Houston shooting (44 percent versus 49), and an indifferent showing by James Harden (5-16, 0 of 7 treys, 16 points). But the Rockets’ three-man bench was more than enough to compensate; Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each contributed 18 points to the cause, and Nené went 12-12 (!) for 28 points. (The entire Thunder bench scored only 22.) And the Rockets outrebounded the Thunder, 45-40, never a good sign.
So it’s back to Houston for Game Five on Tuesday, with the Rockets up 3-1. It’s not impossible for the Thunder to win three straight and move to the second round, but I’m not holding my breath either.