The Houston Rockets wasted a golden opportunity tonight when they blew their second straight double-digit lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston led by as many as 15, were up 13 at the close of the third period, and were in front for the majority of the night, but they gave up a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter and went nine consecutive possessions without a point that led to a dramatic Thunder comeback that culminated in 112-111 defeat for the Rockets.
James Harden, who finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists, had his only miss from the free throw line of the night (12-13) with 9 seconds left in the game, and Paul George of course followed with a ridiculous three with P.J. Tucker right in his face with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
Harden then missed a pretty good look at the top of the key as time expired, and the Rockets take a gut-punch loss in a game with both playoff atmosphere and implications.
The Denver Nuggets lost tonight to the Utah Jazz, so had Houston won, they would have clinched the two-seed in the Western Conference. Now, they need help just to stay in the third seed and very likely could drop to fourth. If the Portland Trail Blazers win tonight against the Lakers and again tomorrow versus the Sacramento Kings, and the Nuggets also win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Rockets will tumble to fourth and will have a fast ticket to Oracle Arena in the second round (provided both teams make it that far).
It makes it even more difficult that the Rockets played so well up until that six-minute stretch to open up the fourth. In addition to Harden, Houston also got 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists from Chris Paul. CP3 appears to be rounding into playoff shape, which is some good news, despite the heart-breaking loss.
Clint Capela had 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks, while Gerald Green had 15 points in 15 minutes, shooting 5-9 from beyond the arc. P.J. Tucker had a fine game despite scoring just 4 points and missing all three of his triples. He went toe-to-toe with George all night, sacrificing his body at numerous turns.
As for the Thunder, George finished with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals, while Russell Westbrook had a triple double with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Terrance Ferguson finished with 16, while Jerami Grant and Dennis Schroder had 10 apiece.
Nothing left to do now for the Rockets but watch the results of other games.