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Game 3 Recap: Houston Rockets Fall to OKC

Apr 21, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket in front of Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 21, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket in front of Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets fought back into the game after trailing by double digits with five minutes left, but James Harden’s game-winning three narrowly missed, giving OKC their first win of the series.

When a team launches as many triples as the Houston Rockets do, they won’t win games shooting 28.6% from deep. Also, when the Oklahoma City Thunder, the worst three point shooting team in  the league, hit 47.4% of their attemps, they’ll probably win. That’s the story of game three. James Harden and company played much worse than their typical output, while Russell Westbrook got his guys going for one of their best performances of the season.

Despite the Thunder outplaying the Rockets in nearly every category, they were still about two inches away from losing. Had the Beard’s buzzer-beater three gone in, Houston would be looking at a pretty 3-0 lead.

113. 169. 115. 149.

Despite the loss, Friday night was encouraging for Rockets fans. OKC won’t habitually play as well as they did, and Houston won’t play as poorly.

Not everyone in Houston played poorly, though. Ryan Anderson finally got things going, scoring 18 points on 8/14 shooting in addition to six rebounds. Lou Williams had another big game too; he put up 22 points and shot 75% from three. Of course, James Harden also played well. He led all scorers with a huge 44 points on just 21 shots, and also grabbed six boards and dished out six assists.

Sadly, that’s about the end of the list of Houston’s productive players Friday night. Trevor Ariza only scored seven points and missed all four of his long range attempts. Clint Capela couldn’t hang inside with OKC’s big men, coming away with only two boards for the night. Patrick Beverley might have had the worst night of all. He finished with just one point, missing every shot he took. He also fouled out of the game and turned the ball over thrice in just 24 minutes of action.

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Like I said earlier, the Thunder played excellent basketball, from the top of the roster to the bottom. Westbrook, of course, led with 32 points, 11 assists, and 13 rebounds. The only blemish on his night was the three missed free throws in the final minute that gave Houston a shot at winning.

Taj Gibson had probably his best game in a Thunder jersey on Friday, scoring 20 points on an efficient 10/13 shooting. If a Thunder fan tried to use the argument that Russ doesn’t have a good supporting cast, they’d have a tough time getting around game three.

Only three OKC players shot worse than 50% from the field: Westbrook, Steven Adams (2/5), and Alex Abrines (2/5). Everyone else for OKC shot accurately.

So, Houston fans, be encouraged. It’s not often that the Rockets will lose a shootout to the worst three point shooting team in basketball. They’ll have extra motivation going into game four as well.

Next: 3-on-3: Thoughts From a Rockets and a Thunder Expert

A 2-1 lead isn’t as nice as a 3-0 lead and a sweep is no longer possible, but the Rockets should be able to close things out quickly in games four and five to advance to the second round.

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