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They did it! They actually did it. The Thunder tied the series up at 2-2 and the Thunder have a clean slate heading into Game 5. Today’s game was by far the best one for the Thunder from start to finish. Yes, the Thunder had to come back from down 15 points in the third quarter, but that was only because the Rockets hit a ridiculous number of three-pointers (8 to be exact) to start the second half. However, the Thunder remained completely unfazed. They rode out the Rocket’s big run– relying on their mid-range game and a couple big threes from Bazley and Schröder– and the Rockets ended up with only 3 points in the final 4 minutes of the third frame. That is GROWTH.
Today’s MVP of the game has to go to the definitive Sixth Man of the Year, Dennis Schröder. He had a 30-point game on 10-16 FG and 4-7 3PT plus 2 HUGE free throws and an even HUGER lay-up in the final minutes of the game. Coach Billy Donovan spoke a lot about increasing the pace of the game after Game 3 and Schröder was a big component in bringing that goal to fruition. And, it absolutely worked! The Thunder’s faster pace forced the Rockets into defensive mismatches and let the Thunder take advantage of stretches when Harden was off the court.
The biggest adjustment came from our guy Billy Donovan. He did it. He made the “big” adjustment that we were all hoping for. He went full small ball down the stretch and this time on purpose. Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, Schröder, Dort, and Gallo (or the “Dorth Lineup” as I’m now calling it, h/t @okcthunderfan69 on Twitter) was exactly the closing lineup the Thunder needed to pull off another clutch win like they’ve done so many times before.
All in all, the Houston Rockets better watch out because the Thunder are gaining momentum and fast. Raining threes can only carry the Rockets so far as we saw today and the Thunder have the perfect answer– the King of the Mid-Range, Chris Paul.
P.S. Honorable mention to Lu Dort for playing basically the entire fourth quarter with 5 fouls and still killing it defensively, per usual. Let’s never do that again though.