Chis Paul erupted for 28 points in Game 6 of the Western Conference first-round series, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-100 win over the Houston Rockets. Paul scored 15 of his 28 in the fourth quarter alone, clinching the game with a pair of three’s and clutch free throws down the stretch.
Houston’s Russell Westbrook had trouble finding his footing, committing seven turnovers on the night. Westbrook returned to the series following a quad injury which kept him out of the first five games. With a minute left in crunch time, Westbrook had his most costly turnover in which Oklahoma City was able to capitalize.
The most shocking event of the night was the disappearance of James Harden when the game truly mattered. The Thunder isolated Harden on the wing, forcing Westbrook to beat them. In the closing four-minutes of the contest, Harden only shot the ball twice, prompting Chris Paul to take a jab at him in the post-game press conference on TNT.
Chris Paul postgame quote read, “When it gets to clutch time, fourth quarter, some people [are] built for it.”
It is naive to think that this wasn’t directed towards Harden. The two had a messy divorce this past off-season, resulting in Paul being shipped away with a bundle of draft picks to Oklahoma City in return for Westbrook.
I believe that this will fuel Harden in Game 7.
Game 7 Preview: Picks, props and more
FanDuel has Houston as a 5.5 (-108) point favorite. I expect Houston to win by double digits.
The Rockets average margin of victory over the Thunder this series has been 20-points. Look for Westbrook to be sharper and more efficient with the ball in his hand, while Harden will most certainly play with a greater sense of urgency.
This is a huge statement game for Harden’s legacy, who has failed to reach the NBA Finals in all eight of his seasons with the Rockets. An early first-round exit would be a huge blow to his resume. Also, Houston’s Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is on the hot seat. Some suspect this could be D’Antoni’s last game with the Rockets if they were to fall to the Thunder. D’Antoni will certainly be preaching ball security after his team coughed up the ball 22-times, leading up to the win or go home Game 7. With some much at stake for the pair, I believe Harden and D’Antonio will rise to the occasion.
Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari will need to match their Game 6 performances, in which the two combined for 53-points. I don’t foresee this happening due to a streaky Gallinari all series long. Besides, Game 6 was more of a Houston loss than a Thunder win.
If you’re uncertain with the point spread in a contentious Game 7, don’t you worry. Take the under at 219 (FanDuel). The common rule of thumb is to take the under in a Game 7. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the Jazz/Nuggets matchup from last night, both teams had been lighting up the scoreboard all series, but in Game 7, the 80-78 final looked more like a March Madness score than an NBA.
My favorite prop bet of the night with a ton of value is James Harden +35 points/Houston win +186 (FanDuel). Harden was only 3 for 11 from three in Game 6, and still managed to score 32 points in an average performance for his standards. I expect Harden to shoot the ball better from beyond the arc, especially with Paul’s not so subtle post-game press comments.
If there is one thing for certain, it is that this Game 7 will live up to the hype. Grab your popcorn, as the Rockets and Thunder square off at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.