The Oklahoma City Thunder fell behind in the early stages of their first round matchup against the Houston Rockets, 0-2, but they’ve managed to storm back in a big way. After Monday’s 104-100 victory, the series is now tied at three games apiece, with a highly-anticipated Game 7 on the horizon.
In this piece, we’ll break off three bold predictions for Wednesday night’s closeout game. Will it be Oklahoma City with a come-from-behind effort, or will Houston recalculate its course?
Chris Paul has been a monster in this series, and his effort in Game 6 may have been the difference in victory and defeat. The former Wake Forest standout logged 40 minutes, scoring 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter alone. It’s also worth noting that he committed zero turnovers and held a plus/minus score of +20.
Paul went 3-for-6 from downtown in Game 6. That’s a solid mark, but we’re calling for more from the 10-time All-Star.
Our prediction: Chris Paul sinks (at least) five threes in Game 7. He’s 35 percent from deep in this series, so it’s certainly an attainable number.
Russell Westbrook made a costly mistake in the closing moments of Game 6. With his team trailing by two points (102-100) and 13 seconds showing on the game clock, The Brodie received an inbounds pass, then proceeded to push the ball up the court. Time was short, and the Rockets needed a bucket.
Westbrook dribbled into the paint in an effort to draw the defense, then rifled a pass out to the perimeter. The dish was meant for Robert Covington, but it sailed wide.
A huge turnover in the final seconds of a closeout game. Houston was forced to foul on the ensuing play, and Danilo Gallinari sank both free throws. As a result, Oklahoma City walked away as victors, 104-100.
It’s worth noting that Westbrook was playing in his second game since returning from a quad injury.
Our prediction: Westbrook redeems himself, scoring 40 points on less than four turnovers in Game 7.
The Rockets seemed to be burning right on course in the early stages of this series. Now, with their season on the line, it’s time to recalculate. And though they were defeated in Game 6, Harden says Houston’s mindset remains the same:
“To go win,” Harden said of Game 7, via ESPN. “It’s simple.”
Harden led the Rockets in Game 6 with 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. His team will need a similar effort in Game 7, but they’ll also need an improved performance from Westbrook, who finished Monday night’s matchup with seven turnovers. Together, Houston’s two stars combined for 12 of the Rockets’ 22 giveaways.
Houston is certainly capable of bouncing back from their blunder in Game 6, and that’s exactly what we’re predicting. We’ll take the Rockets in a grind-out Game 7 win, 112-108.
If this prediction comes to fruition, the Rockets would advance to face the No. 1 seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. The Lakers (52-19 in the regular season) defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in their first round matchup, 4-1.
Game 7 between the Rockets and Thunder is set for Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET. ESPN will have live broadcast coverage.