Sports fans are in for a treat Wednesday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the first round of Western Conference playoffs. The winner moves on the semifinals to battle the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game series.
OKC downed the Rockets, 104-100, on Monday night to keep their playoff hopes alive. Tip-off for the midweek showdown is at 9 p.m. EST inside ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. Oddsmakers peg the Rockets as a -5.5 favorite in the winner-take-all contest.
What to Know – Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder took a 3-point deficit into the locker room at halftime on Monday night on the brink of elimination. However, OKC came out in the third quarter to take the lead and held on in a back-and-forth final quarter. The Thunder shook off a dominating Game 5 performance by the Rockets, who held OKC to just 80 points and 31.5 percent shooting from the floor.
Chris Paul paced the Thunder with 28 points on 10-for-20 shooting from the field, with 7 rebounds. Paul scored 15 of those points in the fourth quarter while Danilo Gallinari chipped in 25 points with a 9-for-17 performance from the floor.
Oklahoma City finished the night shooting 42.7 percent (38-for-89) from the floor and 33.3 percent (12-for-36) from the 3-point line. The Thunder out-rebounded the Rockers, 51-41, and committed three fewer turnovers.
What to Know – Houston Rockets
After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the series, the Rockets face elimination from the playoffs. Houston is entering the game with Russell Westbrook back in the lineup after he missed the end of the regular season and the series’s first four playoff games.
James Harden scored a game-high 32 points in the loss, shooting 11-for-22 from the field. Harden added 8 rebounds and 7 assists but turned the ball over 5 times. Robert Covington continued his stellar play providing 18 points and 5 steals while averaging 18 points over the last three games. Westbrook poured in 17 points but committed 7 turnovers.
Houston shot 45.2 percent (38-for-84) from the floor and 34.1 percent (15-for-44) from beyond the arc. Harden and Westbrook combined for 12 of the team’s 22 total turnovers.
The Pick is In
After taking a beating in Game 5 the Thunder looked like a focused ballclub in Game 6. You have to give OKC credit for a fantastic second-half performance that kept themselves in the playoffs. This should be another battle, with both teams fighting to live another day inside the Orlando bubble. The Thunder were impressive on Monday to show that kind of resiliency and focus on the task. OKC may not pull it off, but expect the Thunder to keep this one close. Take Oklahoma City +5.5 in this one.