The coin-flip series heads into Game 5 and the #4 Houston Rockets and #5 Oklahoma City Thunder are deadlocked at 2-2 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Dennis Schroder, a contender for NBA’s Sixth Man of the year, snapped out of a scoring funk. Schroder dropped 29 points in Game 3 and 30 points in Game 4 for OKC in their last two victories against Houston. Schroder’s turnaround on offense is the main contributing factor to why the Thunder evened the series.
The Rockets played their first four games of the postseason without All-Star Russell Westbrook. Westbrook tweaked his quad in the closing week of the restart.
At the start of the series, even without Westbrook, the Rockets were -148 favorites to advance to the Western semifinals. The Thunder came in as +120 underdogs to win their first-round series.
According to DraftKings, the Thunder are +140 to win the series and the Houston Rockets are -177 favorites to advance.
Oklahoma City (44-28) at Houston (44-28)
Point Spread: HOU -3.5
Total O/U: 224.5
Money Line: OKC +145 / HOU -165
After winning the first two games of the series, the Rockets dropped their last two games to the Thunder. In Game 3, the Thunder avoided the dreaded 0-3 hole and won Game 3 in overtime 119-107. The Thunder edged out the Rockets 117-114 in Game 4 to even the series.
The Thunder covered their last two games as an underdog. Heading into Game 5, the Thunder are +3.5 dogs.
In scoring totals, the over is 3-1 in this series.
Another OKC Comeback Win
The OKC Thunder rallied for a comeback victory against the Houston Rockets in Game 4. The Thunder rallied from behind to win 17 times this season, so it didn’t faze them that they faced another uphill battle heading into the fourth quarter.
“Our team all season has dealt with adversity really, really good,” said point guard Chris Paul. “We just tried to keep playing, keep fighting and stayed in the game.”
“I always believe we can turn it around,” said Schroder. “Just bring a little bit of energy, get stops as a team, take the good shots and we’ll be in good shape. We’ve been doing it all season.”
Schroder came off the bench in Game 4 and led the Thunder with a career playoff-high 30 points. Chris Paul added 26 points against his old team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chipped in 18 points for Billy Donovan’s three-guard offense.
The trio picked up the slack for Danilo Gallinari, who had a bad shooting night and only scored nine points — 10 points below his season average.
James Harden scored a game-high 35 points and 14 assists in the Rockets’ loss. The Thunder harassed him on the perimeter and Harden missed 14 shots, including nine 3-pointers.
“We weren’t sticking to our principles, so it was a disaster on both ends,” said Harden.
Schroder Leads OKC Bench Mob
Schroder isn’t just the Thunder’s sharpshooting sixth man. He’s also a part-time shrink for Chris Paul.
“Dennis does a great job,” said Paul. “I’m so grateful to have him, because when I find myself getting a little, you know, losing it or whatever, he talks and calms me down.”
Despite an early shooting slump, Schroder talked himself down from a ledge.
The Thunder bench outgunned the Rockets bench once again. In Game 4, the Thunder’s reserves outscored the short-handed Rockets 43-13. Schroder contributed 30 of those bench points. After getting outscored 74-47 in the first two games, the Thunder bench made a bigger contribution in the last two games. In Game 3’s overtime victory, the Thunder’s bench outscored the Rockets 32-20. They had a 30-point edge in Game 4.
Schroder was an integral part of the turnaround. The Rockets’ defense shut him down in the first two games, and he scored 19 total points even though he averages nearly 20 ppg.
In their Game 1 loss, Schroder scored only six points and shot 3-for-12 from the floor including a 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
During another loss in Game 2, Schroder played a tad better and scored 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
In Game 3, Schroder struggled once again from 3-point range shooting an ugly 2-for-10 clip. But he tallied 29 points, including several huge buckets in crunch time and overtime.
Schroder finally broke out of his shooting slump in Game 4 with an efficient 10-for-16 effort. He set a new playoff high score with 30 points in the victory.