Thunder's Late Game Mistakes Cost Them Once Again In Series

By A. Suave Francisco

Game 4 of the Oklahoma City-Houston playoff series went about the same as Games 2 and 3. A quick start for the Thunder, a third quarter run by the Rockets to make things more interesting and then a coin flip to decide the winner. That coin flipped Houston's way 3-of-4 times this series and now OKC trails 3-1 after a debilitating 113-109 loss at home. 

Once again the Thunder got off to a quick 26-22 lead by the end of the first with Russell Westbrook already halfway to a triple-double. Westbrook got every one of his teammates involved as well, with 7 players scoring in the first quarter. Andre Roberson continued his spectacular defense as well with 4 first quarter blocks to go along with 5 points. 

By the half, Westbrook had a triple-double and the Thunder were rolling, up 58-54. The game's atmosphere began to change, though. Harden's shots weren't falling and he was visibly frustrated after a few shoving matches with Steven Adams and his team followed by example by playing with a ton of energy and physicality as well. Through all the third quarter drama, the Thunder adapted and still persevered, leading 77-73 after the 36th minute. At this point, Harden only had 8 points and a fourth quarter surge seemed unlikely. 

That wasn't the case. The Thunder apparently forgot Nene plays like an all-star against them and for whatever the reason, haven't found an answer for him this series. Nene constantly dominated down low, lead the Rockets in rebounds with 10 and led the team in scoring with 28 points. It was that and the Rockets practicing "hack-a-Dre" (Andre Roberson), that won the game for Houston. Roberson, a player that dominates defensively and may be one of the league's best perimeter slashers, struggles mightily from the line. He shot 42.3 percent for the season and 2-of-12 tonight. This put a ton of pressure on Billy Donovan because if he would've taken Roberson out, Harden would've probably won the game on his own. It was a lose-lose situation. 

Down the stretch, Oklahoma City just couldn't get the job done. Westbrook tried to make it happen but didn't. Teammates weren't getting open in scoring position and because of that, Westbrook took ill-advised shots that played a role in this game's fate. 

The Thunder dropped their third to the Rockets this series and the record is the same as the season series between the two, 3-1. Tuesday night the Rockets will have a chance to close the series out in front of their fans in Houston. OKC has plans to get a hard-fought win so they can return home to the Chesapeake Energy Arena to even up the series at 3-3, forcing a pivotal Game 7 in Houston next weekend.