The Oklahoma City Thunder are right back in the series after leveling things at 2-2, thanks to a 117-114 comeback win over the Houston Rockets.
Their three-guard lineup did the bulk of the damage with Dennis Schroder leading the way with a team-high 30 points off the bench, while Chris Paul added 26 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chipped in 18 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.
All five Rockets starters scored in double figures led by 32 points from James Harden. Eric Gordon added 23 points, Danuel House Jr. 21, Robert Covington 14 and P.J. Tucker 11.
Here are the biggest takeaways from tonight's game:
1. Schroder time
Dennis Schroder followed up his 29-point performance in Game 3, with another high-octane performance off the bench, recording a team-high and playoff career-high 30 points in Game 4.
With the Thunder leading 109-108, Danillo Gallinari picked up a clutch steal, before Schroder sized up Jeff Green on the perimeter, blowing by him to the basket to give OKC a 111-108 lead with 35.9 seconds remaining.
🚨 Close game alert 🚨- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 24, 2020
Dennis beats the buzzer to bring the Thunder to within 1 heading into Q4. Watch NOW on @FOXSportsOK pic.twitter.com/YVMbEsbFaB
He followed that up by knocking down a pair of free throws to make it 114-111 with 15.8 seconds to go to put the game beyond reach.
Thanks largely to Schroder, the Thunder bench outscored the Rockets reserves 43-13 on the night.
2. Comeback Kings and clutch wins
No team in the NBA had more clutch wins than the Thunder this season and it's already paying dividends in the post-season after eeking out another hard-fought win.
The Thunder are 32-15 in clutch games, including the playoffs (5-point game within the final five minutes) and had to rally back into the contest once again.
The Rockets opened up a 15-point lead in the third after starting the second half 8-of-8 from the three-point line, before the Thunder clamped down on defence as the Rockets shot just 5-for-26 from deep over the final18 minutes of the game.
OKC rallied to go into the fourth quarter trailing by just one point (93-92), thanks to 14 points in the period from Paul and this Schroder buzzer-beater!
Buzzer beater. Worth another look! https://t.co/sfZ3AOK7U7 pic.twitter.com/RrpWo72pqk- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 24, 2020
Paul continued his late-game dominance, scoring eight points in the final two minutes before Schroder put the game away.
Game 4 also marked the second-straight game that the Thunder's three-guard lineup has combined for 70+ points.
3. James Harden starts fast, fades late
With the Rockets looking to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, All-Star guard Harden knew exactly what was at stake. Houston's primary scorer came out gunning, scoring 15 points in the first frame on near-perfect shooting of 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from 3-point range.
He also dished out four assists in the frame, doing a little bit of everything for his team.
Harden finised with 32 points, 15 assists, and eight rebounds, but managed just 13 points in the second half, under immense defensive pressure from Thunder wing Lu Dort.
The Rockets star joined Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul as the only players with 30 PTS/15 AST in a playoff game since 2000.
FROM ELIAS: James Harden is the only player in postseason history to have 30 points, 15 assist and 5 rebounds in a game and lose. Players with 30-15-5 were 11-0 entering today. pic.twitter.com/PP4LOYhSVs- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 24, 2020
4. Lu Dort = clamps
The Thunder look like they've found a gem in Lu Dort, who again put his defensive chops to good use late in Game 4, particularly against Harden.
Despite picking up his fifth foul with 11:37 left in the fourth quarter, he did an excellent job denying Harden the ball, clogging the passing lanes and most importantly, defending without fouling.
Harden didn't shoot a single free throw in the fourth quarter as Dort put the clamps on. In four games vs. OKC with Dort in the lineup, Harden is shooting 12-of-56 from the 3-point line (21.4%).
When the Rockets had an inbound with 15.8 seconds to go, down 115-111, Dort hounded Harden on the perimeter, denying him the ball as Jeff Green was forced into a contested triple. The Thunder will take that every time.
5. Rockets live and die by the three
Without Russell Westbrook powering his way to the rim, the Rockets have leaned on their 3-point shooting this series, with mixed results.
Game 1: 20-of-52 (38.5%) - W
Game 2: 19-of-56 (33.9% - W
Game 3: 15-of-50 (30%) - L
Game 4: 23-of-58 (39.7%) - L
As you can see below, the Rockets are in a league of their own - with their 35 missed threes, a potential 105 points. Despite their analytical approach, they have to find other ways to score.
Westbrook's impending return from a quad injury could well change their fortunes, but it's unclear if he will be healthy in time for Game 5.
Most 3-point misses by a team in a playoff game:- StatMuse (@statmuse) August 24, 2020
37 - Rockets
37 - Rockets
36 - Rockets
35 - Rockets (Game 3 vs OKC)
35 - Rockets (today) pic.twitter.com/z0yqPvFKTW
6. Westbrook and Adams get re-acquainted
There's no love lost between these two teams, especially after the blockbuster point guard swap last off-season.
During a timeout, injured Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook exchanged words with former teammate Steven Adams, who he spent six season playing alongside in Oklahoma City.
Brodie catching up with some old teammates 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/WCVq8LeX7t- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 24, 2020
7. What's next?
These two teams will be back in action again in a couple days time when they lock horns for Game 5, which takes place Wednesday, August 26 at 6:30 p.m. on TSN.
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