Dennis Schroder converted a key turnover into a lay-up and the Oklahoma City Thunder evened their National Basketball Association Western Conference first-round play-off series with a 117-114 victory in Game 4 over the Houston Rockets.
After Danilo Gallinari picked off an errant pass from Rockets guard James Harden with 53.4 seconds left on Monday (Aug 24), Schroder scored to extend the Thunder’s lead to 111-108 with 35.9 seconds left at the AdventHealth Arena in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
Oklahoma City erased a 15-point, third-quarter deficit to post a second consecutive victory and square the series at two games apiece with Game 5 set for Wednesday at The Field House.
Schroder scored 30 points off the bench to lead the Thunder, while Chris Paul added 26 points, six rebounds and three steals. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paired 18 points with 12 boards for the Thunder, who survived a three-point onslaught from the Rockets that opened the second half.
Houston started the third quarter 8 of 8 from behind the arc and led 88-73 when Jeff Green scored off a Harden assist with 5min 51sec left in the period. But the Rockets then went ice cold, missing 20 of their ensuing 23 from deep as Oklahoma City roared back, starting with a 12-0 blitz to end the third, punctuated by a Schroder 31-foot buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Harden led Houston with 32 points, 15 assists and four steals while Eric Gordon added 23 points. Houston attempted an NBA post-season record 58 shots from three-point range, converting 23.
Both teams raced to scorching shooting starts only to cool dramatically in the second quarter. The Rockets converted 8-of-15 three-pointers in the first quarter, including a 3 of 3 start from Harden, but carried a modest 37-35 lead into the second after the Thunder drilled 6 of 10 from deep.
The Rockets and Thunder shot a combined 3 of 18 from behind the arc in the second quarter, with Oklahoma City missing 8 of 9 attempts from deep.
Harden had 19 points with seven assists at the break and was buoyed by the support of Gordon and Danuel House Jr, who totalled a combined 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the first half to offset the 29 points posted by Gilgeous-Alexander and Schroder.