The Houston Rockets outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 despite Russell Westbrook’s third consecutive series triple-double (35 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists) on Sunday, thus taking a 3-1 series lead heading back to Houston.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 23, 2017
The Thunder looked far the superior side in the first half, going into the interval commanding a four-point lead after a lacklustre showing from Houston. At this point, Westbrook had already notched a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
In fact, the hosts were admirable leaders of the game throughout the second and third quarter before they ultimately fell short to the Rockets in the fourth. Oklahoma were outscored 40-32 in the fourth and final quarter, surrendering their near-whole game lead with 9:42 left on the game.
The two teams traded baskets for what seemed like an eternity before Houston resorted to fouling Andre Roberson, sending him to the line due to his poor free throw shooting (42.3-percent this season, a career-low). As a result of the Rockets’ ruthless game plan, the visitors began to pull away, opening up a five-point lead as Roberson, who recorded four blocks in the first quarter alone and defended James Harden superbly, shot 2-for-12 from the charity stripe.
The Rockets bench laughing at Roberson at the free throw line gotta be some of the biggest disrespect ive ever seen in the NBA pic.twitter.com/KkzPKKK0jb
— AGENT OF NBA CHAOS (@World_Wide_Wob) April 23, 2017
The result may have turned out a lot differently had the Thunder players steadied themselves in the clutch, as the Rockets’ laziness and lethargy almost cost them a vital win in this series. However, they did enough to see out the victory and a majority of that praise should be heaped on Houston big man Nene. The Brazilian center erupted off the bench to score a team-high and personal playoff-high 28 points to go with 10 rebounds, shooting a perfect 12-of-12 from the floor.
Sunday’s result will now set up a difficult challenge for the Thunder, who will be hoping to extend this series further, but on Houston’s home court this series could easily be finished in game five.