Paul George hits game-winner to lift Thunder past Rockets

Oklahoma City fell into a 13-point hole on Tuesday night entering the fourth quarter of its matchup against the Houston Rockets, and looked to be out of the game.

The Thunder weren’t done. They mounted a massive 15-0 run midway through the final period to square it up, putting them right back in the game in their regular-season home finale at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Yet with just 9.4 seconds left in the game, the Rockets had regained a slight lead thanks to a James Harden free throw. Harden missed his second free throw, though, which fell into the hands of Russell Westbrook.

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Westbrook, with one last chance, brought the ball up the floor, fighting through a Houston press. He dished it to Steven Adams across the half-court line, who quickly gave it right back to him as he dribbled to the wing before spotting Paul George in the corner.

Westbrook slid it to George, who expertly drilled the contested 3-pointer to push the Thunder ahead with just 1.8 seconds left in the game, securing the win for Oklahoma City.

Paul George hit a game-winning 3-pointer on Tuesday night to lift the Thunder past the Houston Rockets. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Paul George hit a game-winning 3-pointer on Tuesday night to lift the Thunder past the Houston Rockets. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

“When [Harden] missed it, they got to do something about Russ coming downhill,” George said, via TNT. “They sent two, three guys to him. I was able to free myself to the corner. Russ made the play, I had to make the shot.”

Westbrook led the Thunder with a triple-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds, and 10 assists — the 10th of which came on the final pass to George in the corner. The 30-year-old guard is now the first player in league history to average a triple-double in three straight seasons.

“Nobody can do it. He’s not getting enough credit for it, honestly,” George said, via TNT. “Just watching him close up, like I’ve been saying, I’ve been preaching all year, he leaves everything on the floor. The reason why I came back here is I want to play with a guy like that.”

George finished with 27 points and nine rebounds on the night. The Thunder have one game left in the regular season, when they’ll take on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

The win propelled Oklahoma City one game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. If the standings hold, the Rockets and the Thunder will meet in the first round of the playoffs.

“It’s a big win. We’ve got to get wins late in the season,” George said, via TNT. “That’s really what it’s about, winning games late in the season when we really need them, especially against good opponents. It’s a big one.”

Harden led the Rockets with 39 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 11 of 28 from the field. Chris Paul added 24 points, and Clint Capela recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

With the loss, the Rockets are now a half game behind the Denver Nuggets for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Houston’s season is over, however the Rockets hold the tiebreaker with Denver — which will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. If Denver wins, it gets the No. 2 seed.

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