1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+0)
John Napier: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was effective offensively, scoring 23 points on 9-18 shooting, but the real story was SGA’s corner three, which put the Thunder ahead by 1 with 14.3 seconds to go. The star sophomore put his Game 1 struggles firmly in the rearview mirror and didn’t hesitate at all to pull the trigger on the biggest shot of his playoff career.
2. Danilo Gallinari (+0)
Cray Allred: Gallo has been the most steady player for the Thunder in the playoffs. A ho-hum 20-spot on 4-11 from three should not get lost in the shuffle of Game 3’s insanity; without the Italian’s spacing and shot-making, the Thunder would be absolutely toast on offense and DOA for the series.
3. Chris Paul (+0)
Allred: CP3 may have his mojo back. For the first time all series, he didn’t look as short and aged as he is, while dropping 26 points [11-22 FG, 4-6 3PT, 1-2 CSCG (Circus Shots to Clinch the Game)].This happened in the regular season–Paul looked a step slow for a while before he got comfortable hoopin’–and getting the Thunder’s unquestioned leader back in gear will be the determining factor for whether Game 3 was more than a fluke.
4. Dennis Schröder (+1)
Olivia Panchal: Game 3 was the first game of this series where Dennis Schröder looked like and played like a 6MOY finalist. Schröder’s craftiness and competitive edge (especially in the final minutes of a close game) were finally in full effect. He was a huge factor in the Thunder’s win over Houston putting up a playoff career-high 29 points off the bench on 10-23 shooting from the field. The 3-guard lineup better notch more minutes together in Game 4 because Dennis Schröder has finally arrived.
5. Luguentz Dort (-1)
Allred: I don’t know if anyone else noticed this, but Dort has been pretty good guarding James Harden one-on-one. As we noted ahead of the series, an extremely iso matchup like Harden actually plays perfectly to Dort’s strengths while limiting his weaknesses as an off-ball defender. He’s still every bit (and more) the offensive liability that his forerunner, Andre Roberson, was when taking these kind of herculean guarding assignments. If the four-guard lineups Billy Donovan was backed into playing to close Game 3 get more time moving forward, some of that could be mitigated.
6. Darius Bazley (+1)
Allred: Bazley made the cut for what we assume is Donovan’s settled 8-man playoff rotation (at least against Houston) in Game 3, grabbing 6 board and knocking down 1 of 2 threes in 13+ minutes on the court. Play the man more.
7. Billy Donovan (-1)
Napier: There’s a sense that Steven Adams’s right knee injury saved Billy Donovan from himself in overtime. Throughout the series, Donovan refused to match Houston’s small ball with a small ball lineup of his own, keeping one of Adams or Nerlens Noel on the court at all times. But when Adams went out, Billy finally unleashed a small ball lineup with Danilo at the 5, and the Thunder cruised in overtime (albeit with James Harden having fouled out). Game 4 is a practical must-win, and hope abounds that Donovan may flex a little on his rigid desire to have a true big on the court at all times.