If ever there was an example for the notion a game isn't over until the final whistle sounds, the Oklahoma City Thunder provided it in their 107-99 win on Thursday.
Facing elimination in their first round NBA playoff series against the Utah Jazz, the Thunder trailed by 15 points at half time.
In the first four games, the Thunder had struggled to penetrate Utah's defence and scoring hadn't come easy as they fell behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. And, when they fell behind by as much as 25 points early in the third quarter, it looked like the writing was on the wall.
Only no one told All-Star duo Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
With 8min34sec remaining in the third quarter, the Thunder trailed 71-46. They finished the quarter tied at 78.
Westbrook (20) and George (12) put the team on the shoulders and outscored the Jazz 32-7 in that final period of the third quarter to make it a new game with just 12 minutes on the clock.
According to SportsCenter, it was the 2556th time in the last 20 seasons of the NBA – regular season and playoffs – that a side had trailed by 25 in the third quarter. However, OKC bucked the trend, becoming the first team to trail by 25 in the third and not be trailing entering the fourth.
It was one of a number of remarkable numbers that led to the Thunder forcing a game six.
In the final 20min30sec of the game, Westbrook single-handedly outscored the Jazz 33-28 – shooting 11/18 from the floor in that time, including 5/7 from beyond the three-point arc.
Before that point, the 2017 league MVP had shot 6/21 from the floor, missing both his early three-point attempts.
The Thunder needed their All-Stars to lead the way in the do-or-die clash, and they did. Westbrook (39) and George (26) accounted for 65 of the team's 89 total shot attempts in the match – converting 44 per cent of those.
In terms of player usage, game five was the first match this series in which former All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony played fewer than 30 minutes. Through the first four games, Anthony's defensive rating (opponent's points per 100 possessions) of 108 was 18 points higher than his offensive rating (team's points per 100 possessions). Anthony started the third quarter, but was replaced by Jerami Grant with 7min19sec to play in the period. In the ensuing 11 minutes before the 33-year-old returned, the Thunder outscored the Jazz 34-17.
The match was also the first time in the series the Thunder had held the Jazz below 100 points, despite the visitors getting an unusually high-output performance from back up forward Jae Crowder.
Coming into the match shooting 7-28 in the series' first four games (4-19 from deep), Crowder top scored for the Jazz with 27. Shooting 9-19 from the floor including 6-14 on three-point attempts, the 27-year-old had just his second double-digit scoring performance on the series.
On the back of their largest comeback win in franchise history, the Thunder kept their season alive and will take that confidence to Utah on Saturday (NZ time) to try force a game seven.
Oklahoma City Thunder game-five stats:
Russell Westbrook - 45 points, seven assists, 15 rebounds
Paul George - 34 points, two assists, eight rebounds
Steven Adams - Six points, one assist, six rebounds
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