The Houston Rockets held a five-point lead with 59.7 seconds left to go in Game 3 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. But an epic choke job, a comedy of errors, and an eventual foul-out by Harden would give the Thunder a 119-107 win in overtime and their first win of the series.
There are some really big positives for the Rockets this game, including taking a commanding 12-point lead early in the first half, more suffocating defense, and dominating the paint early on — 16 of their first 19 points came in the lane. These are all things that we’ve already seen from Houston in the first two games, so we’ll have to focus on what exactly happened this game for OKC to make the series go 2-1.
Too Much Eric Gordon, Not Enough of the Rest
At this point in Eric Gordon’s career, we just have to accept the fact that he’s a streaky shooter. He’s a lot closer to Cavaliers J.R. Smith than he is the ‘16-’17 Sixth Man of the Year. The biggest difference between the two is that Gordon has the green light to put up 24 shots in a playoff game.
For the series, Gordon is a combined 4-of-26 from deep. Coach Mike D’Antoni allowed Gordon to go out there for 41 minutes and amass a -29 for the game. -29 IN A GAME WHERE THE TEAM LOST BY 12.
Starter Robert Covington played only 19 minutes and Ben McLemore played only 17 minutes, combining for four total shot attempts and only one make. Of course, looking at the game, Covington didn’t really seem to be present and had foul trouble early on, but the fact that he didn’t see a second of OT is completely unacceptable. On top of that, your best shooter takes only two three-point attempts all game (zero attempts in regulation time) while Gordon takes 10.
Dort is a DAMN Problem
I’ll be the first to admit that after Harden dropped a cool 37 points on 12-22 shooting in Game 1, I scoffed at Thunder fans boasting that it wouldn’t happen when Luguentz Dort returned. Let me be the first to tell you that I was wrong.
Not only does Dort have great size, strength, and quickness, but he has an incredible defensive IQ. Dort’s ability to not bite on any fakes and stay in front of Harden without fouling has been nothing short of impressive.
As of right now, the Thunder really don’t have to double-team Harden as long as Dort is guarding him. According to ESPN, Harden is only 4-of-19 in the half court when being guarded by Dort, but he is 24-of-42 when guarded by anyone else. Harden averages only 0.93 points a play against Dort. Scoring less than one point a possession for Harden is unheard of, and it’d be wise for Houston to start finding ways to get Harden to shed his man instead of trying to take him on one-on-one.
Jeff Green Remains the Man
We’re going to talk about how great Jeff Green is after every game because he really is that awesome. Green logged 22 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while playing 38 minutes. 38 minutes! In a playoff game. He was unsigned as of Feb. 28 of this year.
Green shot an astounding 8-13 from the floor, five-of-eight from deep, including a pivotal deep-ball with three minutes left in regulation to put Houston up by two. Green’s shot from deep has been very consistent for Houston, and his ability to attack the basket is invaluable.
JEFF GREEN APPRECIATION TWEET! pic.twitter.com/bEYC9Gynqe— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 23, 2020
This isn’t a Loss to Fear
Truthfully, there was an expectation for the Thunder to win forthright in Game 3 after taking losses in the first two, finally getting healthy, and still no Russell Westbrook on the court for the Rockets. The fact remains that Houston could have won this game. And not “they could have won this game” in the sense that they had a lead midway the fourth and OKC came back. No, Houston was up five with a minute left.
If Houston can just inbound the ball, they win in regulation. Unfortunately, if Danuel House Jr. doesn’t leave Shai Gilgeous-Alexander so open in the corner with 14 seconds left, or — again, very unfortunate — if House makes BOTH of his free-throws with nine seconds left, the Rockets win. Stretch it out a little further, and you can make the case that Houston can still win in OT if Harden doesn’t foul out, leading to Gordon seemingly rage-quitting and chucking a bunch of bad shots.
No, OKC needed a Westbrook-less Houston to go 15-50 from three, 41.3% from the field, Gordon to stink up the joint, Covington to play 19 minutes, and Ben McLemore to take no shots in regulation to win in OT. This game happens. A bad loss happens.
Now, all Houston can do is move on, make their adjustments, hope that OKC’s confidence hasn’t shot through the roof, and grab a 3-1 lead tomorrow.