4 min read

Monday Bolts – 4.22.13

Monday Bolts – 4.22.13

Berry Tramel: “The Thunder tried to downplay the Harden reunion angle, but Durant admitted it “felt a little awkward, looking across there and seeing him with another team. We gotta get past that.” The Thunder got past it just fine in Game 1 of this Western Conference playoff series. Most possessions started with Thabo Sefolosha dogging Harden, but when the Thunder switches — with Durant or Russell Westbrook or even Serge Ibaka moving onto Harden — it neutralizes Houston’s pick-and-roll offense. No one knows better than Oklahoma City how productive Harden can be in the pick-and-roll.”

Ben Golliver of SI.com: “The Rockets definitely got a taste of the best the Western Conference has to offer, and Harden’s attempt at optimism is in line with Morey’s pre-playoffs excitement. Given how the match-ups broke, this year was mostly about getting the Rockets’ young core their first set of playoff repetitions together, with an eye towards the future. The Rockets’ regrouping message for Game 2 should be simple: There’s no shame in getting blown out by the Thunder, who led the league with a +9.2 margin of victory, on an off night. Play sharper and shoot better and a more competitive contest awaits. That said, the series goal has crystallized quickly for Houston: try to avoid the sweep.”

My column for CBSSports.com.

From Elias: “Kevin Durant scored 24 points in the Thunder’s series-opening victory over the Rockets. It was Durant’s 27th consecutive playoff game in which he scored more than 20 points (since May 15, 2011). That’s the longest such streak in the playoffs for any NBA player since Michael Jordan topped 20 points in each of the last 47 postseason games of his career (1996 to 1998). Durant surpassed a 26-game streak of that kind fashioned by Kobe Bryant (2002 to 2003).”

Daryl Morey tweets: “That was painful.”

Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Anything was preferable, honestly, to tipping off against the OKC buzzsaw, given Houston’s defensive frailties and the Thunder’s ability to liberally switch defenders with abandon and play their own track-meet style to devastating effect. The Thunder, meanwhile, had privately come to believe (and even embrace the idea) down the stretch that they were destined to start off with the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers, who’ve shown little ability to guard them even with a healthy Kobe. Leading off instead with all the emotions attached to a best-of-seven reunion with Harden, so soon in what they hope will be playoff run to avenge last June’s NBA Finals collapse against Miami, is not what they wanted. But they’ll have to deal with it.”

Darnell Mayberry: “The question Houston has to answer is how. How on earth do the Rockets prepare for what could be more of the same? What they have to understand is that the Thunder is a team on a mission, and their scrappy eighth-seeded squad is all that’s standing in OKC’s way at the moment. And rather than overlook the Rockets, the Thunder has zeroed in on the task at hand. If Game 1 proved anything it’s that the Thunder isn’t interested in taking these guys lightly. OKC, on this night, cleared the highest hurdle this series has to offer. For the Thunder, that’s a mental challenge of playing with the proper mindset against a team you know you’re better than. This game showed us that Houston has the Thunder’s complete attention, and that focus led to a forgettable homecoming for Harden and an utterly disappointing playoff debut for his coach and many of his Rockets teammates.”

Russell Wardrobe Watch, Game 1.

Jenni Carlson: “But, of course, for as good as Ibaka was on offense, he was his normal dominant self on defense. And that’s no easy task against Houston. The Rockets play small a bunch, and that puts Ibaka at a disadvantage. He ends up guarding players who are much smaller and quicker than he is. That tends to draw him away from the paint, where he dominates.”

Rahat Huq of Red 94: “Houston’s biggest problem, as it had been all year, was that they simply cannot survive without Omer Asik. At the 5:51 mark of the second quarter, the game was tied 38-38. Asik, in need of a breather, came out, and was replaced by Greg Smith. From that point on, Ibaka got rolling and the Thunder never looked back. Smith lost Ibaka on consecutive possessions, causing Kevin McHale to rush Asik back into the game.”

Patrick Harrel of The Dream Shake: “The Thunder are just a much better team. We knew this going in, but it became even more abundantly clear how much stronger of a team the Thunder are than the Rockets on Sunday night. When the Rockets climbed back into the game, the Thunder seemed to easily turn the light on and just demolish a helpless seeming Rockets team. Going the other way, there was not a moment in the game where the Rockets seemed to threaten the Thunder. In a way, tonight was a night where Oklahoma City got to flex their muscles for a bit.”

ESPN Stats and Info: “James Harden made 2-of-15 field goal attempts in half-court sets Sunday and 4-of-4 attempts in transition. Harden’s isolation struggles were a contributing factor, as he made 1-of-8 shots in isolation and is shooting 20 percent on such plays in 3 losses to the Thunder this season. **The Thunder ranked first in the NBA in defending isolation plays during the regular season(0.72 points per play).”