Shots weren't falling for James Harden in Game 7 of the Houston Rockets' first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder but he stuck with it, and in the end, it was his block on Luguentz Dort's 3-point attempt that went on to be the game-winning play.
𝗕𝗜𝗚 𝗕𝗘𝗔𝗥𝗗 𝗘𝗡𝗘𝗥𝗚𝗬 🔥 pic.twitter.com/vRFsnqruuC- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) September 3, 2020
The block gave the Rockets a 104-102 win and a fourth straight postseason Conference Semifinals appearance. On the other hand, it meant a fourth consecutive first-round elimination for the Thunder.
Plenty to uncover from this back-and-forth thriller that saw 15 lead changes and 13 ties. Here are the biggest talking points from this Game 7:
Houston's stars come up clutch on defence
It wasn't necessarily a great game for either of the Rockets' All-Stars. Harden struggled to knock down shots, Russell Westbrook was a -3 while on the floor and the duo had combined for six of the team's 12 turnovers.
But both players showed up and played high-quality defence on the game's final possession, that turned the game in the Rockets' favour.
Take a look below at the help defence by both Westbrook and Harden before the play finally ends with the latter's block:
CP3 vs Covington but watch the effort from Houston. Westbrook plants himself at the nail even with SGA in the corner. Early help. Right there as CP3 looks to get right and get to a shot, recovers to deflect the pass. On the scramble watch Harden hold on Adams and recover. pic.twitter.com/UbktdADcDY- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) September 3, 2020
Despite the shooting struggles, Harden did have nine assists, three blocks and two steals, while Westbrook put up 20 points and nine rebounds.
Big games from Dort & CP3 go in vain
Five players scored in double figures for the Thunder but they were led by their starting backcourt of Chris Paul and Dort. Both players had big games and joined some elite company on the night.
Paul finished with a triple-double of 19 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds. He became the only second player in Thunder franchise history to record a playoff triple-double.
A strong Game 7 effort from Chris Paul.- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 3, 2020
At 35 years old, he became the oldest NBA player to drop a triple-double in Game 7. pic.twitter.com/CL0WwxxZ6f
He became only the fourth player to have a recorded a playoff triple-double at the age of 35 or older. Paul was really beginning to take over the game, scoring 10 of his 19 in the fourth quarter, in an attempt to push the Thunder to yet another 'clutch' win.
He received a lot of support from undrafted rookie Luguentz Dort. His performance broke plenty of franchise records.
Lu Dort's 30 points is the most ever for an undrafted rookie in a playoff game since the draft was introduced in 1947.- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) September 3, 2020
He also now holds the Thunder playoff record for most points, most FGs made, and most 3PT FGs made by a rookie. @luguentz | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/IyONupTRKe
That's not all. His 30 points are the third-most points scored in a Game 7 in franchise history, only trailing a couple of Kevin Durant performances of 33 and 39 points.
Lu Dort making history tonight.- StatMuse (@statmuse) September 3, 2020
Most points in a Game 7 before turning 22:
30 - Lu Dort tonight
27 - LeBron James
25 - Kobe Bryant
Most points in a Game 7 by a rookie:
37 - Tom Heinsohn
32 - Tom Meschery
30 - Lu Dort tonight pic.twitter.com/TH8wlOQZkU
While Dort and Paul set and broke records, they got contributions from all over the floor. Steven Adams had 10 points and nine rebounds while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 19 points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Dennis Schroder had his shooting struggles but finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
As a team, the Thunder outshot the Rockets from the field (46.1%>39.8%), and from beyond the arc (47.1%>34.7%) but the team couldn't capitalise because of their 22 turnovers that led to 28 Rockets points.
Covington stars as Rockets' supporting cast steps up
Harden went 4-of-15 on shot attempts from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point distance, so his teammates picked up the slack. Robert Covington, was arguably the team's biggest contributor in this game, stuffing the stat sheet in the process.
He scored a game-high 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds while recording three steals and three blocks. He became the third player in NBA history along with LeBron James and Draymond Green to finish with at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five 3-pointers. His stat line made him the first player since Kevin Garnett in 2004 to have 20p/10r/3s/3b in a Game 7.
Most threes in a Game 7 in NBA history:- StatMuse (@statmuse) September 3, 2020
7 - Steph Curry in 2018
7 - Steph Curry in 2016
6 - Robert Covington tonight (tied) pic.twitter.com/7hM4zo7fs6
Eric Gordon also scored 21 points, going 5-of-9 on 3-pointers. PJ Tucker did a little bit of everything, finishing with five points, nine rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Jeff Green, off the bench, had 13 points in 20 minutes.
As a team, the Rockets' 17 made 3-pointers are tied with the Golden State Warriors (2016) for the most ever in a Game 7.
As the Thunder exit the bubble, the Rockets have only a day off before taking on the Lakers from Friday at 9 PM ET.
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