After falling behind 4th seeded Houston Rockets on three different occasions, 5th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder has managed an excellent comeback even though they weren’t favorites to qualify heading into the playoffs. The Thunder are still in contention to qualify for the Western Conference Semifinals after their 104-100 win over the Rockets saw them tie the series 3-3 and force a decisive Game 7.
The series against the Rockets began on a terrible note for Oklahoma City Thunder as they went behind 0-2 after the first two games, losing 123-108 and 111-98 in Game 1 and Game 2, respectively. The Thunder would eventually find themselves a way back in the series with two consecutive wins from Game 3 (119-107 OT) and Game 4 (117-114) before succumbing to a humiliating 114-80 loss in Game 5 to go 3-2 behind in the series. However, Oklahoma City Thunder’s victory in Game 6 has changed the whole complexion of the series. Game 7 is now a win or go home game with a lot at stake for both teams. For the Thunder, the first round of the playoffs has proven to be a significant test of strength, resilience, and endurance. They are also looking to go the distance and defy all odds to pull off a surprising NBA title win.
Ahead of the crucial deciding game, we take a look at some of the talking points from Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets so far.
Chris Paul continues to make the difference for Oklahoma City Thunder
It has been an excellent playoff so far for OKC’s star man, Point Guard Chris Paul, who has been a handful for his former team, Houston Rockets. Chris Paul has carried his impressive debut regular-season form for OKC into the playoffs. In 6 games against Houston Rockets, the 34-year old Chris Paul has averaged 21.7 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, along with a further 4.2 assists per game. He has also recorded an additional 1.5 steals per game. Chris Paul has also recorded 49.5% for Field Goal percentages, 35.1% for 3-Point Field Goal percentages, and 85.0% for Free Throw percentages. In the recent games against Houston Rockets, Paul has made significant contributions at crucial stages. In Game 6, Paul scored consecutive 3-pointers to recover from an initial 98-92 deficit to level the scores at 98-98 in the final 3 minutes of the game.
Chris Paul also scored eight of the Thunder’s final 12 points, including two free throws with 13.1 seconds left, to secure a 104-100 victory for OKC and take the series to Game 7. Chris Paul finished Game 6 with 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals, and zero turnovers in 40 minutes. Paul’s 28 points and zero turnovers from Game 6 means he now has four career playoff games of 25-plus points and zero turnovers, making him the third-most among active players behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James, who have more.
If Chris Paul replicates his current form in Game 7, Oklahoma City Thunder could complete an incredible turnaround with an emphatic win over Houston Rockets.
Dennis Schroder continues his hot streak as the best sixth man in the playoffs
In Point Guard Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder has found a perfect secret weapon to make the difference from the bench. In all six games against the Rockets, Schroder has averaged 18.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, and an additional 3.3 assists per game. Schroder has also recorded 42.4% for Field Goal percentages, 28.2% for 3-Point Field Goal Percentages, and 80.0 % for Free Throw Percentages.
His best performances for OKC in the series came in the team’s first two victories in Game 3 and 4 as he finished both games with 29 points and 30 points, respectively. In Game 6, Dennis Schroder recorded 12 points and eight rebounds in another cameo from the bench.
Steven Adams’ excellent form continues
Aside from Chris Paul, another player who has also been integral for Oklahoma City Thunder is Center Steven Adams. In all six games against the Rockets, Adams has averaged 10.2 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game, and an additional 1.5 assists per game.
In the Thunder’s 104-100 victory over the Rockets in Game 6, Adams finished the game with six points on 3-of-7 shooting, 14 rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 31 minutes. Even though Adams’ points from the match tied his lowest scoring total of the series, this was the second straight game that Adams recorded 14 rebounds. He recorded ten rebounds in the first half, including seven off the offensive glass.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari are OKC’s unsung heroes
With Chris Paul being the key man grabbing the headlines, little focus has been on the significant contributions made by Shooting Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Power Forward Danilo Gallinari in the series against the Rockets.
Both players have been regular starters in all of the six games so far and have been impressive. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 15.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 4.2 assists per game.
Gallinari has also averaged 16.8 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 1.0 assists per game.
Both Gilgeous-Alexander and Gallinari were both integral in the Thunder’s win in Game 6. Gilgeous-Alexander finished the game with 10 points and six assists while Gallinari recovered from his struggles in Game 5 to record 25 points with 9 of 17 from the floor and 4 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Both men would have to produce another excellent performance to ensure their team makes it to the next round and avoid elimination.