Chris Paul, Thunder Rally to Win Game 3 vs. James Harden, Rockets 119-107 in OT

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 23, 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul shoots as Houston Rockets' Jeff Green defends during the first quarter of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

The Oklahoma City Thunder came roaring back to life on Saturday with a 119-107 overtime victory against the Houston Rockets in Game 3 during the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. 

Houston still leads the series 2-1, but the win is a big break for the Thunder as no team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 series deficit. 

After winning the regular season series 2-1, the Rockets' small-ball lineup stifled OKC in Games 1 and 2, allowing Houston to win by double digits in each outing. Saturday showed Chris Paul and company have found the necessary adjustment as he and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 49 points. 

Notable Performers

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets:38 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds (fouled out for first time all season)

Jeff Green, PF, Houston Rockets: 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 5-of-8 from three

Chris Paul, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder: 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists

Dennis Schroder, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder: 29 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists

Chris Paul Rises To Challenge 

The Thunder had been waiting for Playoff Chris Paul to make his appearance this postseason.

On Saturday he showed up with his most efficient game in the opening round: 11-of-20 from the field, 4-of-6 from behind the arc and a plus-minus of plus-15.

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

CP has 14p on 6-9 from the field. @CP3 | #ThunderUp https://t.co/b5NQmNfall

For a player who shared a backcourt with Harden over the last two years, Paul doubled as both OKC’s most important playmaker and their on-court coach. That's why the guard had no problem calling himself out after two less than stellar performances in Games 1 and 2.

“I gotta be better,” Paul told reporters. “That's the tough thing, to know how hard we fought, guys worked hard. We put ourselves in position to win that game, and I gotta be better for us."

Two plays late in the fourth quarter showed how Paul elevated his game.

With less than a minute left and the Rockets up by three, Paul went step for step with Harden on the latter’s drive to the rim, forcing Harden to throw the ball to Danuel House Jr. in the corner. House couldn’t set himself and quickly stepped out of bounds. Oklahoma City would score a quick two-pointer on the next play.

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

❄️❄️❄️ The shot. ❄️❄️❄️ @shaiglalex | #ThunderUp https://t.co/87y86vTaq7

Moments later, with 18 seconds remaining and the Rockets back up two, Paul drove from the top of the key, drew in Houston’s defense and found a wide open Gilgeous-Alexander for a go-ahead three-pointer.

Paul made himself a difference-maker on both ends of the floor in the exact manner the Thunder desperately need to have any chance moving forward. 


CP3 at the 🚨... 11-0 OKC run in OT! @okcthunder 115 @HoustonRockets 104 1:20 left on ESPN https://t.co/JDJCocX0ac

Rockets Offense Goes Cold Late 

Give the Rockets credit: Their game-plan on Saturday seemed like it would work incredibly well. 

Then it didn't.

After spending the first half embarrassing the Thunder in the paint, Houston fell apart when Oklahoma City began to wall off any dribble drives down the lane. The second half of the Rockets' plan relied on knocking down three-pointers in order to space the floor so their drives remained successful.

That never happened, and it allowed the Thunder to come back from a 12-point deficit and avoid falling into a 3-0 series hole. 


Harden (24 PTS) and HOU lead at the half on ESPN! #NBAPlayoffs https://t.co/k4EG9omith

Houston scored 32 points in the paint in the first half after scoring 34 points there in total in Game 2. It would only muster another 14 points at the rim over the rest of the game. At the same time, the Rockets went just 15-of-50 from three with Harden and Eric Gordon combining to go 5-of-23. 

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

𝗦𝗺𝗮𝘀𝗵 𝗚𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗼𝗻 🔨 https://t.co/lUTlcf1naf

Once those shots began missing, Oklahoma City officially had a chance to steal a game. 

Thanks to Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, Schroder and Danilo Gallinari each tallying 20 points or more, that quickly became a reality. 

What's Next

Game 4 between the Rockets and Thunder is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 24 at 4 p.m. ET on TNT.