ORLANDO, Florida- The Oklahoma City Thunder hang on tight to the title of “clutch” with a thunderous comeback down 15 and unwavering defense in the fourth quarter to even out the series 2-2 behind a 117-114 win over the Houston Rockets.
With electric performances from Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder off the bench, the Thunder outscored the Rockets 25-21 in the fourth quarter after a back-and-forth game with 18 lead changes and 18 ties.
The Thunder limited the Rockets to 8-25 fourth quarter shooting with strong defensive performances from Lu Dort and Steven Adams, while both CP3 and Schröder delivered clutch shots to elevate the Thunder to victory.
It was Schröder, however, that led the way for the Thunder breaking his record for most points scored in a playoff game with 30 points alongside 3 assists and 6-7 shooting from the free throw line.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” Schröder said. “The first two games I really wasn’t aggressive, and that’s what my game is. I found my open teammates and went all the way to the bucket.”
“Aggressive” was the name of the game as the Thunder limited the Rockets to 27 percent shooting, 15 percent from 3, after falling down by 15 midway through the third quarter.
The Rockets came out of halftime on fire starting the third quarter 8-8 from 3, but Billy Donovan pushed his guys to showcase strong defensive pressure moving forward, and the Rockets shot 5-26 from deep the rest of the game.
“Chris [Paul] has tremendous basketball IQ,” Donovan said. “With a guy like him on the floor, he has a way of stopping runs and finding good shots.”
Chris Paul finished shooting 10-19 from the floor despite going 0-5 from the 3, and he picked up 26 points with 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
James Harden got off to a hot start finishing with 32 points on 11-25 shooting along with 15 assists and 8 rebounds, but guys like Lu Dort stepped up to the plate to throw Harden for a loop and force him into uncomfortable fourth quarter shots keeping the Rockets off the board and off the free throw line.
Jeff Green, who presented offensive power against the Thunder in previous games, was limited to just 10 points on 4-10 shooting, 2-6 from deep, and zero trips to the charity stripe.
The Thunder bench, led mostly by Schröder, outscored the Rockets’ bench 43-13 with help from Nerlens Noel’s 6 points and 5 rebounds, as well as Darius Bazley’s 7 points and 5 rebounds.
“We have to keep playing how we play and not worry about anything else,” Schröder said. “We bring everything we have every game, and we’re going to live with the results.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his hot hand on offense as well picking up 18 points on 7-17 shooting, 2-5 from downtown, and had 12 rebounds to keep the ball rolling for the Thunder.
After a discouraging start for OKC, the Thunder have powered through a vicious overtime win in Game 3 and a 15-point comeback in Game 4 to even out the series with only Game 5 on their mind.
“Our team has dealt with adversity all season long really, really well,” Chris Paul said following the game.
For a team that was given a .2 percent chance to make a playoff run, I’d say he’s right.
The Thunder will be back in action for Game 5 against the Rockets on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 5:30 p.m. CST.