The answer, in this game at least, was 42. After a spate of weirdness, the Rockets were up three after the first quarter, nothing much to worry about, but in the second, they shot past the Thunder, 42-23, taking a 22-point lead into the locker room. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, as could have been expected, but the right response came from the Thunder, who scored 42 (!) points in the third to tie it up at 90-all. Then followed what Judge Radar calls “Twelve Minutes of Hell,” and after nine minutes of it, the score was still tied. At :03.4, Paul George bagged two free throws to put OKC up three; Gerald Green got the inbound for Houston, but Steven Adams knocked it off Green out of bounds. One second elapsed. PG-13 got the inbound, P. J. Tucker fouled him, and George added two more freebies to give the game to the Thunder, 117-112.
One might have asked before tipoff whether George or James Harden would have a better game. The nod, I think, goes to PG-13, who put up a 45-11-3 line; The Beard handed in a better-than-respectable 42-2-1. But if you watch the plus/minus metric, George was plus 16, Harden minus 9. After that battle royal, Westbrook’s ninth consecutive triple-double (21-12-11) seems almost insignificant. (Maybe a quadruple-double, since Westbrook chalked up ten turnovers.) And Chris Paul just missed a triple-double of his own, with 18-10-9. Things were obviously pretty close, but there was one statistical category where OKC clearly ruled: rebounds, 53-39. And curiously, both benches scored 22 points, led by the Thunder’s Dennis Schröder with 17 and Houston’s Austin Rivers with 10.
Monday night, it’s the third matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers; the Thunder took the first two, including their first win in Portland since the French and Indian War, so I don’t expect the Blazers to have a kindly disposition. And then to the Big Easy for the last meeting with the Pelicans; the Thunder lead that series 2-1. After that, we can all pop a cold one and watch the dunk contest.