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Keys to Rockets winning Game 7 vs. Thunder

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) goes up for a shot as Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder (17) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, left, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) goes up for a shot as Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder (17) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, left, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets continue to struggle in tight playoff games. There’s no leeway for that in a Game 7, especially against a team the Rockets likely have more talent than in the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Game 5 showed what the Rockets could be, with a blowout win, Game 6 showed what the Rockets are an inconsistent team that can go stretches without playing competent basketball despite elite talent.

Here are the three keys to getting a win in Game 7 against Oklahoma City and moving on in the playoffs.

Make sure Scott Foster is more up is more upset at Chris Paul than James Harden

The Rockets have lost seven straight playoff games officiated by referee Scott Foster. Scott Foster is the official for tonight’s game.

However...

Chris Paul’s teams (Rockets/Clippers) have lost nine straight playoff games officiated by Foster.

Both James Harden and Paul have publicly criticized the ref.

So, does Scott Foster have it in for the Rockets, or does Scott Foster have it in for Chris Paul?

Rockets fans better hope it’s more Paul-related than Houston-related.

Harden is your leader, not Westbrook

This is undisputed. If someone’s taking or creating the last shot of a game, it HAS to be James Harden. Harden is the team’s leader, not Westbrook. Westbrook may be more outspoken, and better at communicating in-game advice to teammates, but when it comes to the on-court product, Harden is the team’s first option. Russell Westbrook acted like the first option at the end of Game 6 to a disastrous result.

1:23 - Westbrook turnover

1:00 - Westbrook layup

0:43 - Westbrook miss

0:07 - Westbrook turnover

That cannot happen in the final 90 seconds of a game.

Defensive rotations on Chris Paul

Toward the end of the game, Chris Paul had Robert Covington on him and took advantage. RoCo is one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA, but he’s not quick enough to keep up with a small point guard with great handles like Chris Paul (or a Kyrie Irving or a Steph Curry). RoCo excels at being a long defender on switches versus guards and being able to body up wings and post players. He’s not used to guarding a small, quick player for longer stretches, and that’s exactly what the switches created for Paul late game. Paul hit back to back threes to tie the game playing off that switch. Houston needs to be careful allowing a switch like that late in the game.