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Chris Paul, Thunder Stun Rockets Despite Russell Westbrook's Triple-Double

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2020

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 20:  Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder handles the ball during the game against the Houston Rockets on January 20, 2020 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)
Cato Cataldo/Getty Images

Chris Paul got the last laugh against his former team on Monday. 

Despite trailing by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Houston Rockets 112-107, reeling off a 41-20 run in the final frame. 

Russell Westbrook's triple-double wasn't enough to end Houston's recent woes. The 26-16 Rockets have now dropped five of their past six games, and James Harden's horrid shooting (9-of-29 from the field, 1-of-17 from three) didn't help.

Shane Young @YoungNBA

Oh, boy James Harden just had the 10th game of his career with 15+ three point attempts on 20% or worse accuracy (including playoffs) TEN. Nobody else has more than ONE.

StatMuse @statmuse

Most 3-point misses in a game: 16 — James Harden (tonight) 16 — James Harden (Jan 8 2020) 16 — James Harden (Dec 2019) 16 — James Harden (Oct 2019) 16 — James Harden (Mar 2019) 16 — James Harden (Jan 2019) 16 — Damon Stoudamire (Apr 2005) https://t.co/GWEcXKkWhD

As for the Thunder (25-19), they won the season series 2-1 against Houston. With the two teams separated by just two games in the standings, Monday's win could end up having significant repercussions for playoff seeding down the line. 

But it wasn't all good news for the Thunder on Monday, as starting center Steven Adams played just two minutes before being ruled out after suffering a sprained left ankle. 

               

Notable Stats

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Russell Westbrook, HOU: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals

Chris Paul, OKC: 28 points, seven rebounds

James Harden, HOU: 29 points, nine rebounds, six assists

Dennis Schroder, OKC: 23 points

Danuel House Jr., HOU: 13 points

Danilo Gallinari, OKC: 25 points, 13 rebounds

          

Chris Paul Is on Fire

Two days after lighting up the Portland Trail Blazers for 30 points and seven assists in just 28 minutes, Paul was at it again, putting up 28 points Monday. He scored 27 of them in the first half alone. 

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

@CP3 I mean, come on now! Drop your guy a vote: https://t.co/zRCS00RkF6 https://t.co/ckKQKeYNuy

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

Step 👏 Back 👏 Corner 👏 Three 👏 @CP3 | #ThunderUp https://t.co/fTRph4l1p3

Paul's perimeter shooting and efficiency have been on point in the past two games. Against Portland, he finished an impressive 11-of-15 from the field and 3-of-5 from three. Against Houston, he continued that trend, going 9-of-18 from the field and 4-of-8 from three. 

For all of the talk heading into the season about the Thunder eventually looking to move Paul and his mammoth contract for young players and assets, he has the Thunder firmly in the playoff chase. If he continues to shoot like this, the Thunder are going to be a real problem in the second half of the season.

His second-half disappearance was somewhat concerning, though Gallinari and Schroder picked up the slack. 

               

Russell Westbrook Is on a Tear Himself

Since December, Westbrook has been a different player. His scoring averages have continued to climb as the season has progressed.

  • October: 22.5 PPG
  • November: 21.5 PPG
  • December: 27.1 PPG
  • January: 30.3 PPG 
Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

That speed... https://t.co/DMblWWwOEH

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

Russ doing work tonight. 🔥 https://t.co/b8Is5Ml0n7

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

Westbrook. Fast. https://t.co/OdDN0uRVhT

Westbrook has now recorded five straight games with 30 or more points, and while the Rockets are just 3-5 in January, the duo of Westbrook and Harden are starting to click. At the very least, the two players are putting up numbers, with Harden averaging 31.4 points per game in the month.

That's down from the ridiculous 37.3 points he averaged in December and 39.5 points per game he posted in November, though Westbrook helping to pick up the scoring slack should benefit both Harden and the Rockets in the long run.

The Rockets needed every bucket Westbrook gave them on Monday, with Harden having one of his worst shooting performances in recent memory, though it ultimately wasn't enough to secure the win.

            

What's Next?

Houston will host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, while the Thunder will travel to Orlando that same day for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff against the Magic. 

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