Rockets vs. Thunder scores, takeaway: Oklahoma City forces a Game 7 with a decisive win over Houston


Six down, one to go. After a back-and-game Game 6 between the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul elevated his team to a 104–100 victory to force his team to a Game 7.. The Rockets and Thunder will play the role of one winner taking all matchups on Wednesday to determine who is going to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, and that is thanks to Paul. Oklahoma City was the NBA’s best clutch team during the regular season, and Paul’s 14 fourth quarter points elevated him to this one.

Meanwhile, Houston has to go back to his hotel, romping on all his missed opportunities to close the thing. He led most of the second half and gave James Harden a strong 32 points. But Russell Westbrook hugged the ball in the final moments and Houston could not put late-game points on the board. He was responsible for seven of Houston’s 22 turnovers, and if he doesn’t do his act together quickly, Houston’s season is about to end abruptly on Wednesday.

Here are three major takeaways from Monday night games.

1. This is the end of the “Chris Paul can’t win in the playoffs” narrative

The idea that Chris Paul was always ridiculous based on a couple of bad playoff defeats. Speaking regularly, Paul has always been better at the playoffs than in the regular season, yet he is blamed for losses he could not prevent. Is it his fault that Josh Smith and Corey Brewer went on the biggest shooting binge of their lives? Paul had 31 points and 11 assists in that playoff game against Houston. Oklahoma City needed every one of them tonight. He needed his heroines throughout the season.

The Thunder were the best clutch team in the NBA this season, both by record and net ratings. It was not close. This is par for the Chris Paul curriculum. His team is almost universally better at clutch during the game. Paul clarified his feelings on two of his big 3-pointers: he lives for moments in the same way. Most players do not.

Chris Paul will probably retire without a championship ring one day. Nobody should care. There are very few players in basketball history who matter the most.

2. Houston lost Russell Westbrook business

Russell Westbrook turnover is nothing new. His defensive lapses are the norm. His poor 3-point shooting has been a career-long feature. Houston learned all this when he did business for her. He left a point defender in Paul, who praised James Harden, congratulating him thoroughly for a variety of arguable reasons, but the biggest, as it may be, was a belief that Westbrook was a Was able to change radically as a player.

Then, they knew who they were. No one expected Westbrook to turn into Stephen Curry and regular-season Westbrook. His shot-selection improved. He concluded without a center. But in the biggest moment of the season, Westbrook returned to the worst possible version of himself. James Harden, former MVP, perhaps the best scorer on earth, took only one shot in the competitive part of the final four minutes of the game. It was a stepback 3-pointer on an expired shot clock. Westbrook monopolized the ball down the stretch and Houston scored just two points in the final four minutes.

It also doesn’t matter if Westbrook would have made his shots because he wouldn’t have been taking them in the first place. One of the greatest clutch scorers in history, Paul understood that Harden should have the ball in his hands at the biggest moments of the game. Westbrook, apparently, and until he fails to understand that simple reality, the trade would have been a detriment to the Rockets.

3. Billy Donovan needs to accept what his best lineup is

The series outscores the Thunder by 50 points with Steven Adams on the floor. He scored just six points on nine shots in Game 6, for a defense that was designed to make him easier to dock and layout. Meanwhile, the small ball line of Chris Paul, Shai Gillagius-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, Lou Dortch and Danilo Gallinari led them to victory in Games 3 and 4 at crunch time … yet the best plus of any Oklahoma City – Despite being minus, this series (+10) has played only 14 minutes.

Steven Adams is a very valuable player … most of the time. It is a rare occasion in which their shortcomings as a traditional center to some extent make them obsolete. Paul knocked the Thunder off the stretch, but the game could have easily lost Adams’ blocked dunk attempt late in the game. If he is not going to score easy points then his size should grant, Oklahoma City needs to insist on a vacancy and Gallinari needs to play at center. Has worked in this series and it makes sense in this matchup. The Thunder are less talented than the Rockets. They can’t beat themselves with sub-optimal lineup options.

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