The Houston Roundball Review is an online basketball publication by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
OKC snaps Rockets' 20-game home win streak with 108-102 victory
Posted: April 7, 2018 -- 11:35 pm CDT.
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets lost to the OKC Thunder 108-102 Saturday night in front of a sold out crowd. The Thunder outscored the Rockets 28-19 in the fourth quarter. Houston led 92-91 after a Gerald Green floater in the paint; however, three turnovers and 6 missed shots during a 4:36 span which the Thunder turned into a 102-92 lead with 3:47 remaining in the game.
Houston (64-16) had its 20-game home winning streak snapped tonight. The Rockets finish the regular season 34-7 at home which ties for the third-most home wins in a single season in franchise history.
P.J. Tucker swished a corner three-point shot to end the scoring drought. Then, Tucker sank another three-pointer to trim the Rockets' deficit to 105-98 with 51.9 seconds remaining.
After Clint Capela blocked a driving layup attempt by Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul scored a running layup for a five point deficit (105-100) with 36.4 seconds on the clock.
Next, OKC's Paul George was fouled by Trevor Ariza. George made both foul shots before Ariza dunked for another five point deficit (107-102) with 20 seconds remaining.
The Rockets did not score in the final 20 seconds.
Eric Gordon sat out the game with left ankle soreness. His scoring / shooting ability and ability to attack the basket were missed tonight.
"We're missing Eric Gordon which is big for us; so, there are some things that we can correct," Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game.
"I thought we gave a great effort; but, it's not the same -- with the appropriate fear -- you don't have that; so, it doesn't propel you."
James Harden echoed D'Antoni's comments about Eric Gordon's importance: "Get Eric back in that second unit and just flow right into it."
With two regular season games remaining, Harden has no doubts about the Rockets' readiness for the playoffs.
"Yeah, we're good. We're in a great place right now," Harden said. "Two more games to close it out and be ready for the playoffs."
Harden believes the Rockets need to "keep our rhythm and our intensity up" for the final two regular season games.
Harden scored 26 points in tonight's game. He has scored at least 20 points in 68 of his 71 games played this season. He needs 30 points over the final two games for his fourth straight season scoring at least 2,200 points. Only eight players have scored 2,200 or more points in at least four straight seasons. Kobe Bryant is the last person to accomplish the feat (from 2005-'06 through 2008-'09).
Houston had 18 turnovers tonight after having 17 turnovers versus the Portland Trail Blazers April 5. The Rockets only committed more than 13 turnovers once during the previous 11 games.
"We turned the ball over too much. Too many offensive rebounds," Chris Paul said.
Gerald Green agreed, "I think, offensively, we were okay. It's just the turnovers and offensive rebounds that we gave up. I think that was the difference in the game."
OKC (46-34) finished the game with 15 offensive rebounds and outscored the Rockets 16-11 in second-chance points.
Green scored 14 points on 5 of 10 field goal shooting off the bench. However, Green had three turnovers and missed 5 of 7 three-point attempts. He finished the game with a minus 19 plus/minus ratio.
OKC outscored the Rockets 36-30 in the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony scored 14 of his 22 points in the opening quarter. Melo made 6 of 7 field goal attempts in the first quarter including 2 for 2 from 3.
The Rockets outscored the Thunder 32-25 in the second quarter and led 62-61 at halftime.
Houston led 83-80 after three quarters. Tonight's loss is just the third time this season the Rockets lost a game (55-3) when leading through three quarters.
Houston scored 40 points in the second half: 21 in the third and 19 in the fourth.
The Rockets shot 5 for 16 from three and 10 for 20 from two-point range in the second half.
Tonight's loss is the third time this season (41-3) Houston lost a game in which Clint Capela, James Harden, and Chris Paul played together. The three losses have come by a combined total of 11 points.
"It's one of those things," D'Antoni acknowledged. "Again, Eric Gordon is big for us for a lot of lineups; and, we'll have that (in the playoffs). We weren't real sharp; but, give them (OKC) credit. They played really well -- especially in the first half. They played great and we were up one (at halftime). We just didn't win the fourth quarter. We just didn't score like we should."