Dennis Schroder was the Thunder's best player in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals; he also cost Oklahoma City any chance they had to win. Midway through the third-quarter, Schroder hit P.J. Tucker below the belt.
Schroder was called for a flagrant two, which comes with an automatic ejection. Tucker got tossed as well, after headbutting Schroder in retaliation.
Billy Donovan says, "First thing it was obviously an illegal screen."..."And it was kind of a bang-bang play."
"P.J. obviously after the play was over kinda headbutted Dennis, so they certainly had to eject him.".."And I don't know if they felt like they had to eject Dennis because they ejected P.J."
The Thunder already down 18, fell behind even more being outscored in the third quarter 37-18. Schroder was the only consistent part of the Thunder's game as they struggled to find any rhythm on offense shooting 31.5 percent from the floor.
When Schroder went to the locker room, he had outscored the Houston bench by himself. Give Mike D'Antoni credit; the Rockets never broke from the game plan giving Lu Dort all the three-pointers he wanted while not allowing any of the other players on the floor, get the spacing they needed.
According to Donovan, nights like this are all part of Dort's learning process. "the guys on the bench were supporting Lu in terms of encouraging him to shoot when he's open."...."I think part of this growth is learning when to shoot some, when to drive some and when to pass some."
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The Thunder will have their resolve tested. They were able to come back from 2-0 down to make this a series, but can they get off the mat and find a way to extend it to a game 7?
Chris Paul says, "Luckily, we talked about all this stuff before we got here."..."We'll go back to the drawing board and see what we did well see what we didn't do well."
"Just about every game the first play of the third quarter they [Rockets] started off the with a three, so we gotta let our defense create our offense."
For five games, the Rockets have dictated the way these games have been played. Donovan and his staff must find a way to not only keep the Rockets in check but, to get the ball into the hands of his scores.
Paul has guided this team all year long, and his voice will need to be loud and clear in the next 48 hours. It's just one game, but Oklahoma City is on the brink of elimination, they've been gritty, but it's time to find out if they have two more wins left in them.
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With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past six seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.