All season long, Chris Paul has made Oklahoma City one of the best clutch teams in the league (it had a net rating of +24 in games within five points in the final five minutes, best in the league). The Thunder make smart decisions and don’t turn the ball over when it matters.
Houston could have used some of that in the final minute of Game 6 Monday night.
Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round matchup was tied 100-100 with 60 seconds left, but a Russell Westbrook airball from three, a couple of Chris Paul free throws (after he got Robert Covington to reach), then a Westbrook turnover on a bad pass gave Oklahoma City a 104-100 win.
That forces a Game 7 on Wednesday night for the right to face LeBron James and the Lakers in the next round.
Westbrook, in his second game back from a quad injury, was still rusty. He had 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but he also had seven turnovers.
James Harden had 32 points, and while he was not as sharp as usual (3-of-11 from three), the basketball world was asking why he did not have the ball in his hands with the game on the line? Harden said the final play was drawn up for Westbrook.
“That play was for Russ to attack the basket,” Harden said. “He attacked the basket and he made the decision he felt was open…
“In a closeout game we gave them too many opportunities… we shot ourselves in the foot. We turned the ball over too many times.”
Chris Paul finished with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting, was +20 in a game his team won by four, and most importantly down the stretch, he was getting guys in the right position and making the right plays.
Danilo Gallinari had 25 points, and Luguentz Dort was making shots and had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, a big boost for OKC.
“I’m gonna ride with Lu Dort until the wheels fall off,” Paul said.
He’s going to ride with him to a Game 7.