HOUSTON (AP) —Paul George scored 45 points, Russell Westbrook matched the NBA record with his ninth straight triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 26-point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 117-112 on Saturday night.
Westbrook had 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds to match the record streak set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Westbrook has 22 triple-doubles this season and 126 overall. He also had 10 turnovers and was 8 of 21 from the field.
James Harden led the Rockets with 42 points, reaching 30 points for the 29th straight game – two shy of Chamberlain for the second-longest streak in NBA history, but far behind Chamberlain’s record run of 65 games. Harden was 11 for 28 from the field, going 6 of 16 from 3-point range, and made 14 of 15 free throws.
The 26-point deficit was Oklahoma City’s largest of the season.
Westbrook gave the Thunder a one-point lead with a driving layup with 26.9 seconds remaining. On the following possession, Harden missed a 3-pointer, and George got the rebound and was fouled with 3.4 seconds left. He made both free throws put Oklahoma City up three. Houston turned it over on the following inbound play.
George made 12 of 22 shots, hit 6 of 14 3-pointers and made 15 of 18 free throws to finish four points shy of his career-high 49 points set in 2013 with Indiana.
The Thunder made seven of their first eight shots in the third quarter to quickly cut Houston’s lead in half. Oklahoma City outscored Houston 42-20 in the quarter to even the score at 90.
Houston had won seven of eight home games against Oklahoma City.
The Rockets did their part to set up a highly anticipated rematch by dispatching the Jazz 100-93 in Game 5 Wednesday. With a 4-1 series victory over Utah, Houston enters the second round to face the winner of Warriors-Clippers. Golden State leads 3-1 entering its own Game 5 tonight.
Harden is better. Chris Paul is healthy. The Warriors – their veterans a year older, Kevin Durant‘s impending free agency causing more drama – look somewhat vulnerable.
But Golden State is still favored in the second-round series before even winning its first-round series. The Warriors have historic top-end talent, and that usually wins out in the playoffs.
It did for the Rockets against the Jazz.
Harden (26 points, six rebounds, six assists, four blocks and three steals) and Paul (15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals) weren’t great tonight. But they gave Houston enough considering Utah’s best player was Royce O'Neale (18 points on 8-of-13 shooting).
Donovan Mitchell (12 points on 4-of-22 shooting, including 0-for-9 on 3-pointers, with only one assist and five turnovers) had an awful game I doubt he’ll forget. His competitiveness and self-awareness are so impressive. I bet this only fuels him.
The Rockets are ready now.
They’ve won 24 of their last 29 games, going back to the regular season. They like to play a high-scoring style, but they’re versatile enough to adjust. P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela keyed a strong defensive performance tonight.
Houston probably won’t beat Golden State. But the Rockets have the opportunity they’ve desired for the last 332 days.
PBT Podcast: Looking ahead at the NBA playoffs second round
Boston vs. Milwaukee. Philadelphia vs. Toronto. Houston vs. Golden State.
The first round of the NBA playoffs had plenty of emotion — just ask Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook — but it was short, with very possibly only one series going at least six games.
The second round? That’s not going to be so quick, and it is filled with even matchups that present a lot of questions.
Is this the Rockets’ year? They have the formula, can they execute it? The Bucks were the best team in the regular season, but can they carry that elite level into the second round against Boston? Is Toronto the team to beat?
Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports/Real GM/Celticsblog to look ahead at the second round, and even talk a little about what is next for Oklahoma City.
Sebastian Telfair – a high school phenom from Coney Island, N.Y. – was the No. 13 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. He never lived up to the hype, but he still stuck in the NBA for 10 seasons, with the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Suns, Celtics, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors and Cavaliers.
He got arrested in 2017 for gun crimes and just his lost his trial.
They’re all only borderline first-round picks. Though I think at least one will get picked in the opening round, this could be the first NBA draft without a senior selected in the first round.
Like most drafts in this era, the top prospects are largely underclassmen. They had to declare for the draft by Sunday. Some will definitely stay in. Others will withdraw by the NBA’s deadline (June 10) or, more importantly, the NCAA’s deadline to retain eligibility (May 29). Unlike previous years, players can hire agents while retaining college eligibility. But they had to enter the pool by now to stay in.
Here are all 2019 early entrants, players who came through the American system followed by international players: