breaking: Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds Medicaid expansion petitionLive video: Day 16 of Oklahoma opioid trial

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Paul George's last-second 3-pointer rallies Thunder to win over Rockets

How much is one play worth?

James Harden missed a free throw and it turned into a Thunder fire drill, not just for the final home game of the regular season at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

In 7.6 seconds, the Thunder passed with flying colors with some of the most pulse-pounding dramatics of the season.

“It worked out well, but Steven, Paul and Russell did a great job of making it work,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

Paul George’s corner 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left capped a furious Thunder fourth quarter in a 112-111 win against Houston on Tuesday. With a win on Wednesday in Milwaukee, the Thunder can clinch the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and will face a to-be-determined opponent.

Before that scenario could even set in, the Thunder had to escape from a game in which it trailed by as many as 15 points and never led by more than three. The resolve showed in a fourth quarter in which its defense buckled down to keep Houston to 18 points on 19 shots.

With 9.4 seconds left, Harden missed the second of two foul shots with the Rockets ahead 111-109. Who knew Harden — to that point 11-of-11 from the line — would miss a foul shot to give the Thunder a chance to win?

The Thunder didn’t. It had a play drawn up for if Harden made the free throw.

When he missed, it was a scramble. A well-executed scramble. Steven Adams was supposed to screen for George, but saw Westbrook was in trouble, two defenders converging on him.

“I think when they missed the shot, with the way the court was spaced to run that play on a made basket, they kind of had to improvise,” Donovan said. “Steven flashing to the ball at least gave Russell an outlet.”

Arguably no player was more important than Westbrook down the stretch.

On the previous possession, instead of settling for a 3-pointer with the Thunder trailing 110-107, Westbrook drove to the rim quickly for an easy bucket. Westbrook then quickly fouled Harden to give the Thunder the chance at the last shot to tie.

When Harden missed the second free throw, Westbrook didn’t panic. He calmly beat the Rockets’ trap with a pass to Adams, who showed just above halfcourt as a safety valve.

“Just making the right play,” Westbrook said. “They tried to double team, then just a give-and-go action.”

Adams then handed off to the charging Westbrook. For a beat, Westbrook looked to think about the left wing 3-pointer, but George was in the corner.

“Good players making something happen,” George said. “Russ made something happen. He attracted everybody, played a little pitch game with Steve-O. I was free enough from the corner when he found me. Make the shot.”

George’s night was tougher than just making shots. He battled not just the physicality of P.J. Tucker for 42 minutes, but the lack of physicality afforded to him to defend Harden. George had as many heated arguments with officials, and more personal fouls (four) than 3-pointers made before he nailed his corner 3 off the Westbrook pass to blow the roof off of Chesapeake Energy Arena.

George sealed Westbrook’s 33rd triple-double of the season with the bucket. Westbrook had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. George finished with 27 points on 25 shots.

The Thunder couldn’t have arrived at the jubilation of that well-executed Westbrook-Adams-George combination without a defensive stand.

For more than five minutes in the fourth, the Thunder went on a 15-0 run to take the lead at 100-99. Without that return to form, keeping Houston to 5-of-19 shooting in the final period, Westbrook can’t beat the trap, Adams can’t hand off, and George can’t nail the shot that may help the Thunder dodge a No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup with Golden State in the first round.

The shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks loom. The Thunder is looking to close the season and enter the playoffs with not just five consecutive wins, but an unforgettable night of late-game execution and the belief it can play with the best teams in the NBA.

How much was that play worth? Maybe the chance at winning a first-round series.

“We’ve got to finish the season off,” George said. “Regardless of who’s in, who’s out. It’s about our approach, and that approach starts now.”

Related Photos
<strong>Paul George celebrates his game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the Thunder's 112-111 win against the Rockets on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Paul George celebrates his game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the Thunder's 112-111 win against the Rockets on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6ae0a8a52473d94e320f7f730d01997a.jpg" alt="Photo - Paul George celebrates his game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the Thunder's 112-111 win against the Rockets on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Paul George celebrates his game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the Thunder's 112-111 win against the Rockets on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Paul George celebrates his game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the Thunder's 112-111 win against the Rockets on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f8359ab54fa42ec5336ce068807f008b.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Paul George (13) goes up for a lay up as Houston's James Harden (13) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Cowboys won 6-5. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Oklahoma City's Paul George (13) goes up for a lay up as Houston's James Harden (13) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Cowboys won 6-5. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Paul George (13) goes up for a lay up as Houston's James Harden (13) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Cowboys won 6-5. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cc7c7bf00427f8213b2fc69d8a84eacb.jpg" alt="Photo - Houston's James Harden looks to get past Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook during Tuesday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder beat the Rockets, 112-111. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Houston's James Harden looks to get past Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook during Tuesday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder beat the Rockets, 112-111. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Houston's James Harden looks to get past Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook during Tuesday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder beat the Rockets, 112-111. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Erik Horne

Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The... Read more ›

Comments