March 3, 2021

Paul shines as Thunder force Game 7

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Chris Paul scored a team-high 28 points and carried the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-100 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday near Orlando, forcing a decisive seventh game in the teams’ Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Game leaders

Houston Rockets

  • Points: James Harden – 32
  • Assists: James Harden – 7
  • Rebounds: PJ Tucker – 11

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Points: Chris Paul – 28
  • Assists: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 6
  • Rebounds: Steven Adams – 14

Series tied 3-3

Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with the winner advancing to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semi-finals.

Paul tallied 15 points in the fourth quarter and drilled back-to-back three-pointers that pulled the Thunder even at 98-98 with 2:57 remaining. His two free throws with 13.1 seconds left provided the winning margin for the Thunder.

Chris Paul throws a pass beyond the reach of Rockets defender Eric Gordon
Image: Paul throws a pass beyond the reach of Rockets defender Eric Gordon

Paul added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 40 turnover-free minutes. The Rockets, conversely, committed 22 turnovers, including seven from Russell Westbrook, whose errant pass following the Paul free throws sealed the defeat for the mistake-prone Rockets.

James Harden paced the Rockets with 32 points and also had eight rebounds and seven assists but committed five turnovers. Robert Covington added 18 points, five steals and three blocks for Houston but was the defender on both Paul treys and committed the foul that placed Paul at the line late.

James Harden drives to the rim to score for the Houston Rockets during their Game 6 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder
Image: James Harden drives to the rim to score for the Houston Rockets during their Game 6 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder

There were 14 lead changes and 11 ties. The Thunder surged back into contention with a 16-3 run that bridged the final two periods, pushing to an 85-78 lead in the process.

Danilo Gallinari chipped in 25 points for Oklahoma City and Luguentz Dort, who shot 0-for-9 from behind the arc in Game 5, hit two three-pointers as part of the run that lifted the Thunder back in contention in the third.

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Westbrook scored 17 points while Eric Gordon missed 9-of-12 shots and had nine points for Houston.

The Rockets and Thunder combined for 10 turnovers and 5-for-22 three-point shooting in what was a ragged first quarter, but Harden provided the Rockets a bit of stability in the second.

He amassed 17 points, four rebounds and four assists prior to the intermission, and his length-of-the-court pass to Gordon resulted in a buzzer-beating three-pointer that provided Houston a 51-48 lead at the break.

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