As the dust settles on Houston’s 118-87 Game 1 thumping of Oklahoma City, there is a lot to unpack in terms of the Thunder’s performance. One game is hardly indicative of how the series will play out, but changes are necessary if OKC plans on advancing to the second round.
Here are five thoughts from Game 1, in no particular order of importance.
(1) This isn’t like the Spurs series from 2015-16
First things first — I appreciate the positivity, I really do. While it’s true the Spurs beat the brakes off of OKC in Game 1 of last season’s quarterfinals, that 32 point loss was a lot different than this 31 point catastrophe. Yes, the Thunder came back and won that series in six games, but comparatively speaking, the two seasons shouldn’t be mentioned in same sentence together.
It’s entirely possible OKC rebounds from last night and takes the series — don’t get me wrong. But I can give you 35 reasons why last season’s team was better prepared for a situation like this. Using the 2015-16 squad as any sort of compass on the trajectory of the current team will likely lead you miles in the wrong direction. Don’t do that.
(2) Andre Roberson was the best player on the floor for OKC
This feels like the set-up for an awful, tasteless joke, but it’s true — Andre Roberson was the Thunder’s best player last night. It didn’t even feel close.
Dre played 35 minutes and scored 18 points on 7/10 shooting, including 4/6 from long range. He grabbed 7 rebounds, recorded 2 steals and played as good of defense that can possibly be played on James Harden — even though The Beard finished with 37 – 7 & 9. Roberson was impressive.
I don’t know how many of these Dre has left in the tank (assuming none), but I can’t point any of the blame in his direction. He went bonkers last night and it was an opportunity wasted for the Thunder. One does not simply squander a night in which Andre Roberson goes 4/6 from three.
(3) Steven Adams is a complete mystery
Outside of the bone-rattling screen he set on Patrick Beverley in the third quarter, Steven Adams was forgettable last night. He tallied 6 points and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes, finishing at a robust -22. A few issues here:
- I honestly don’t know if he’s aware of how large he is. If I have to watch another floater from two feet out, when he could just as easily go dunk the basketball, I’m going to throw my television through the front window.
- Ryan Anderson had 12 rebounds, including 3 on the offensive glass. I know that’s not all on Adams, but worth mentioning.
- The pick-and-roll defense was atrocious, but Adams was forthright about it, saying, “The bigs, especially me, played trash on the reads, and the pick-and-rolls were absolute garbage. We have to get back to the drawing board and kind of look at how we can give a better effort in Game 2.”
Defending the pick-and-roll is rightfully the biggest concern, because if that isn’t rectified, James Harden will continue eating the Thunder’s lunch for three more games before moving on. I refuse to give up on Big Kiwi, but he must be better and he must be better quickly. With Enes Kanter looking borderline unplayable, he really has no choice.
(4) Patrick Beverley outplayed Russell Westbrook
Beverley: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 8/13 FG, 4/6 3P, +18
Westbrook: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 9 turnovers, 6/23 FG, 3/11 3P, -25
I sports hate Pat-Bev as much as the rest of you, but man…you have to love that guy if he plays for your team. It’s clear that if Harden is the heart and soul of the Rockets, Beverley is the engine. He brought it last night and makes that team go with his nauseating level of effort.
(5) It’s just one game
Things couldn’t have gone more poorly for the Thunder last night, which is exactly why I’m able to wrap all of it into the simple sandwich of “it’s just one game.” I mean, could it really get much worse? (Don’t answer that)
Some things to note here:
- Victor Oladipo went 1/12 and looked absolutely terrified in his first career playoff game. He may not save the series himself, but he won’t play like that again.
- Alex Abrines was a complete non-factor with his 0 points in 20 minutes of play. The Thunder will need him to knock down some shots to counter Houston’s firepower, and I believe he can give you more than what you got last night. (Obviously)
- Like I mentioned above — Beverley outplayed Westbrook. I don’t think Russ allows much more of that, nor do I think P-Bev goes 8/13 again.
- Houston out-rebounded the Thunder by 15. I’m very confident that will be fixed.
On a list of everything that went wrong last night, those are things that I suspect will change immediately for the Thunder. Will that be enough? Yeah I don’t know, because:
- Harden shot 13/28 and still managed 37 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Roberson will keep him as cold as possible, but I imagine he’ll light it up more than this at least once in the series.
- Houston’s reserve weaponry of Lou Williams and Eric Gordon were highly ineffective, yet the Rockets still won by 31 points. The Sixth Man of the Year candidates combined for 19 points on 6/19 shooting — including 2/8 from downtown. They’ll get it going.
- At the end of the day, Houston has more dudes. Simple, but a very big part in this series.
But again, it’s just one game. Maybe it was a sign of things to come, or maybe it was a complete outlier, I don’t know. It was obvious what needed to change in order for the Thunder to be successful, and they have until Wednesday night to figure it out. There is a lot of basketball yet to be played.