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Tramel: OKC Thunder report card lauds Billy Donovan's rotation in Game 3 vs. Rockets

The Thunder beat the Rockets 119-107 in overtime Saturday night, and now we’ve got a series in the Western Conference playoffs. Houston leads two games to one, but the Rockets were within a whisker of taking total command of the series. The Thunder’s rally produced a variety of good grades, which had been in short supply in Games 1 and 2.

ROTATION: A. Billy Donovan shortened his bench. No Hamidou Diallo. No Terrance Ferguson. No Mike Muscala. No Andre Roberson. Donovan used 11 players in the first half of Game 1 but just eight players total in Game 3. And the minutes of Darius Bazley (13:27) and Nerlens Noel (12:48) were reduced. Donovan’s six primary players all played at least 35 minutes, helping offset Houston’s superior depth. Donovan also had the magic touch in overtime, going small, with no center, and he didn’t flinch even after James Harden fouled out in the first minute in OT. 

DEFENDING THUNDER U. ALUMS: B.  The Thunder did its usual solid job on Harden (thanks, Lu Dort). Harden had big numbers, but Harden almost always has big numbers -- 38 points, seven rebounds, eight assists in Game 3. Harden’s 3-point slump continued. He made just three of 13 from deep and now is 11 of 37 in this series. However, Jeff Green almost did in the Thunder. The original Thunder had a monster game, with 22 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Green had 14 first-half points, then a strong finish in regulation, with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:58 left in the game and a driving dunk that gave Houston a five-point lead with two minutes left.

MIMICKING HOUSTON: B. The Rockets launched their usual bushel of 3-point shots (50, making 15). But the Thunder was launching, too, making 14 of 41. OKC also attacked the basket with more aggression than previously in the series, resulting in more foul shots. The Thunder outscored the Rockets 65-61 on the combination of 3-pointers and foul shots. Even discounting the overtime domination, the Rockets outscored OKC just 58-54 on those staples. Stay with Houston in those categories, and the game can be won.

DENNIS SCHRODER: A. Schroder’s aggression changed the game multiple times. OKC was stagnant from the start; it had five points when Schroder entered the game with 5:22 left in the first quarter. Then he had seven points and two assists the rest of the period. Schroder didn’t shoot it well -- 2-of-10 on 3-pointers -- but his constant attacking changed the Thunder offense. Schroder also had 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that drew OKC within 99-97 with 1:15 left.

CRUNCH TIME: A. In the Orlando bubble, This Thunder seemed to have lost the mojo it displayed from December into March. Maybe that’s because OKC played so few close games. In the most clutch moment of the year, the Thunder returned to type. OKC trailed by five points with a minute left in regulation and trailed by two, with Houston in possession, with 24.4 seconds left in regulation. Yet the Thunder got to overtime and won going away. In that last minute, OKC made four of five shots, the most critical being Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner with 14.3 seconds left. The Thunder’s only miss was Chris Paul’s no-look prayer at the buzzer that just rolled off.

OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING: C. The Thunder had just seven offensive rebounds in regulation and turned them into just four points. Houston had seven second-chance points in regulation. It’s hard to beat the Rockets without making them pay for being small. Then in overtime, Dort and Danilo Gallinari combined for four offensive rebounds on each of the Thunder’s first three possessions. OKC scored on each possession, and the OT rout was on.

FOUL SHOOTING: D. The Thunder has been a good foul-shooting team all season. But OKC made just 23 of 34 from the line. Steven Adams was 0-of-3. Dort was 3-of-5. Nerlens Noel was 3-of-6. The Thunder was fortunate to survive 11 missed foul shots.



Related Photos
Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul (3) is congratulated by teammates following their overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 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)

Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul (3) is congratulated by teammates following their overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 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)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-051782ed9c269b98048b5abda7d8071d.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul (3) is congratulated by teammates following their overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 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)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul (3) is congratulated by teammates following their overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 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)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul (3) is congratulated by teammates following their overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 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)</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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