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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets lose 117-114 to OKC in Game 4; Series tied 2-2
Posted: August 24, 2020 -- 8:24 p.m. CT
ORLANDO, FL (ESPN Disney World of Sports Complex) -- Monday afternoon, the Houston Rockets made 23 three-pointers today and lost. The Rockets lost 117-114 to the OKC Thunder in Game 4 of their 2020 NBA First Round Playoffs match-up. The series is tied at 2.
"They played a little bit better than we did down the stretch," Mike D'Antoni said after the game. "We had our looks. We didn't make them. We turned the ball over a couple of times to hurt us."
After winning Games 1 and 2 with their defense, Houston's defense took a dip in the 119-107 Game 3 overtime loss. Today, the Rockets' defense took a precipitous drop in the second half. Houston began the third quarter scorching hot from behind the arc and made 8 consecutive three-pointers. EIGHT.
The white-hot three-point shooting boosted the Rockets from a 60-60 halftime score to a 15 point (88-73) lead with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter. With the 8-for-8 three-point shooting display, the Rockets, at that point of the game, were 18 for 32 from three-point range.
OKC warmed up offensively; and, the Rockets' three-point shooting regressed to the mean. Houston made 1 of its last 7 three-point attempts in the third quarter. Houston finished the game 23 for 58 from three-point range which includes making 5 of their last 26 three-point shots.
OKC finished the quarter making 6 of 8 field goals - including 3 for 3 on three-point attempts. OKC guard Dennis Schröder capped the third quarter with a 31-foot buzzer beater to slice Houston's lead to 93-92 after three quarters. The Rockets' 15 point lead shrunk to 1 in less than six minutes.
"We weren't getting our shots we want offensively," James Harden said after the game. "And, defensively, we weren't sticking to our principles; so, it was a disaster on both ends."
Chris Paul scored 14 of OKC's 32 points in the third quarter.
Dennis Schröder and CP combined for 17 of OKC's 25 points in the fourth quarter. Schröder scored a finger roll layup to put OKC up 94-93. The fourth quarter featured 11 lead changes and 1 tie.
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Rockets' forward Robert Covington made 2 three-pointers in the fourth to put the Rockets ahead 99-98. OKC rookie Luguentz Dort hit a corner 3 for a 101-99 OKC lead. Dort is not a great three-point shooter; but, he made 3 of his 9 three-point attempts in Game 4.
OKC led 103-99 before Danuel House Jr converted a three-point play followed by a driving layup by Harden to put Houston on top 105-104 with 3:49 on the clock. Twelve seconds later, Schröder scored a layup to put OKC back on top by 1 point. The lead see-sawed back-and-forth for two minutes.
With 94 seconds remaining in the game, Chris Paul nailed a 19-foot pull up jumper for a 109-108 OKC lead. Harden missed a 12-foot floater in the paint; and, OKC guard Shai Gilgeous Alexander missed a corner three. Harden rebounded the miss; but, on Houston's possession, Harden and Eric Gordon didn't connect on a back-door play which resulted in Harden's pass from the top of the key landing out of bounds on the baseline.
With a chance to go up 3 points, Dennis Schröder attacked the basket and scored a driving layup which banked high off the backboard before falling through the hoop. P.J. Tucker missed a three-point shot; Chris Paul rebounded the shot and was fouled. CP made both free throws for a 113-108 OKC lead with 18.4 seconds remaining.
After a Rockets' timeout, Harden swished a three-pointer to keep Houston's hopes alive. The Rockets had to foul; and, Dennis Schröder iced the game at the foul line.
Harden scored a game-high 32 points. Eric Gordon scored 23; Danuel House scored 21. Robert Covington had his best scoring game of the series with 14. Tucker added 11 and Jeff Green scored 10.
Schröder scored 30 points off the bench to lead OKC. OKC outscored the Rockets 46-34 in the paint and many of them were drives to the hoop.
"This game, we needed better individual defensive efforts," Eric Gordon commented after the game. "That's what it's going to boil down to - our defense has got to be better than it was tonight."
"Hard fought. I thought both teams had a chance to win. We just didn't do it," Mike D'Antoni remarked.
Overall, the game had 18 lead changes and 8 ties. The Rockets were outscored 17-7 in second chance points. The fast break points were even at 7.
Game 5 of the series is Wednesday, August 26, at 5:30 p.m. Central Time.
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