Russell Westbrook notched the first 50-point triple-double in NBA playoff history, but it came in a tough loss that puts the Thunder in an 0-2 hole against the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder held the Rockets to 4-of-13 from behind the arc in the first half. They set the tone early and were playing with a ton of energy that kept Houston out of rhythm for three quarters. James Harden was living at the free throw line throughout that stretch, which kept Houston within striking distance. OKC built a 12-point lead in the third quarter from Westbrook scoring 14 in the frame alone.
When Russ went to the bench at the end of the third quarter, Houston went on a predictable 9-0 scoring run. The double-digit Thunder lead shrank to a single possession and the Rockets quickly were scoring again in rhythm. Westbrook played the entire fourth quarter and went 4-of-18 in that stretch. The Rockets were able to knock down shots late in the game and Westbrook’s attempted heroics weren’t enough for OKC to pull out the win.
- Westbrook’s performance in the first three quarters kept the Thunder in the lead, but his shot selection in the fourth was the biggest reason the Thunder lost this game. It should be noted that Russ played three exceptionally great quarters of basketball to start this game. He was knocking down mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper, but the fourth quarter was brutal for the Brodie. He ended the night with 43 field goal attempts and tied the record for most field goals missed in a playoff game. He finished the game with 51 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, 4 steals and 1 block.
- The Thunder were +11 in rebounds, +12 in offensive rebounds and +9 in fast break points. They played much more competitively tonight because they played to their strengths for the majority of the game. The Thunder need to emphasize scoring in the paint more and simply need to tighten rotations with their best 8 or 9 players. I think Oladipo should play backup point guard minutes, which would open up some playing time at the shooting guard position for Roberson and more minutes for Grant and McDermott at small forward. Playing small-ball is usually a good strategy, but it’s taking away minutes from Taj Gibson and Steven Adams. The Thunder could crash every offensive board with this strategy, it might help them score in the paint and the defense wouldn’t suffer with an elite defender like Roberson slotted at shooting guard for spot minutes.
- Playoff Andre Roberson might actually be a thing. He was terrific in the playoffs last year and he’s playing better now than he has all season. It might have something to do with James Harden guarding him, but nonetheless he’s going to warrant a pretty hefty salary in the off-season.
- Lou Williams and Eric Gordon came ready to score tonight. They combined for 43 points on 16-of-28 from the field and each hit three shots from behind the arc. Both guys are leading candidates for sixth man of the year and tonight was a good example of why. The Rockets bench significantly outperformed the Thunder’s bench.
- In the first half, Doug McDermott scored 8 point in 8 minutes on a perfect 3-of-3 from the field. He ended the night with 11 points on 4-of-5 from the field. He only played 14 minutes and I think he needs to see more playing time. He’s obviously not a great defender, but I don’t think he’s a defensive liability like Kanter was in Game 1.
- Kyle Singler played 10 minutes in this game. Singler had some good moments at the end of the regular season, so Donovan rolled the dice, but came up empty. I guess Singler missed his pre-game float tank session tonight. I really don’t think Singler should play at all in the playoffs. Josh Huestis played great in the final game of the regular season and it would be ridiculous to try and implement Huestis in the playoffs now. It’s just as ridiculous with Singler, maybe even worse.
- Enes Kanter saw only 8 minutes on the court tonight after getting exploited on defense in Game 1. He got most of minutes when James Harden sat on the bench and I think that’s a good adjustment from Billy Donovan. Kanter is one of the only consistent threats on offense and I think he needs to see a little more playing time. He had 4 points, 1 rebound and 3 blocks in only 8 minutes.
- Oladipo’s offensive struggles continued in this game. He’s currently 1-of-13 from behind the arc in the playoffs. He played better tonight than in Game 1, but he still needs to be more productive on the offensive end.
- I don’t know what Russ is going to do in Game 3, but it’s going to be must watch basketball.
Next Up: Game 3 against Houston in Oklahoma City at 8:30 pm CST.