Houston, we have a problem…
The Thunder had a good offensive game overall, but couldn’t get the necessary stops to make this a close game – sometimes good isn’t good enough.
Anytime a team can score 137 points, there’s clearly a breakdown somewhere in the defense for the opposing team. The rockets hit 20 three-pointers and had a 63.3 FG percentage. The Thunder were struggling to guard the perimeter and Houston capitalized on that. The Rockets made several tough shots and had one of the best offensive games for any team this season. Houston isn’t going to have an elite defense with their current roster, instead they challenge teams to outscore them.
The King of the Prairie, Russell Westbrook earned his 36th triple-double of the season. He finished the night with 39 points , 11 rebounds and 13 assists. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter alone and was the main reason why OKC outscored Houston by 13 in the fourth. Outscoring your opponent in the fourth quarter is great, but the Thunder entered that quarter down 25 points and couldn’t get out of the hole they were in.
OKC hit 11 three-pointers, which is solid for a team that constantly struggles from downtown. Their offense wasn’t the issue tonight. OKC’s defense just couldn’t stop Houston. The Rockets played small-ball and really thrived. The Thunder got good contributions from Taj Gibson, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter tonight. Each guy played less than 25 minutes and I think that’s a mistake. The Thunder don’t have the talent on the wing to properly match Houston’s small-ball and it felt like the Thunder tried to out-shoot Houston. They’re simply not going to out-shoot Houston. The Thunder played 11 players and Houston only played 8 and I think it’s now the time to really limit the minutes for Christon and Sabonis. The Thunder can be a better team and will play more to their strengths by giving more playing time to their best players.
Houston’s offense was firing at all cylinders this afternoon. They’ve fully bought into Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system this season and now have a roster that compliments James Harden. The Rockets picked up Lou Williams before the trade deadline this year and it’s already proving to be a great move for Houston. In 31 minutes, Williams finished the afternoon with 31 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. He hit 7-of-8 from behind the arc and is just bolstering his case for sixth man of the year.
- This game could have an impact on the MVP race between Harden and Westbrook. It’s just one game, but it’s a game between the two front-runners for MVP towards the end of the season.
- James Harden took a hard fall towards the very end of the game. He had an ice pack on his left wrist quickly afterwards. This fall could be completely nothing, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
- Ryan Anderson was out with a sprained ankle, so the Rockets played small-ball and with Patrick Beverley, James Harden and Eric Gordon all starting. Those three guard lineups killed the Thunder. Playing Eric Gordon at SF is a mismatch that can be exploited and won’t for every team. It pretty much always is going to work against Andre Roberson unfortunately.
- Lou Williams, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and James Harden hit 20 three-pointers. I think the Thunder should’ve focused on closing out on these shooters and forced Houston to give the ball more to Sam Dekker and Patrick Beverley. Closing out on shooters is going to pretty impossible once Ryan Anderson returns and the Rockets have five lethal three-point shooters on the floor at the same time. I would not want to see the Rockets in the first round.
- I didn’t see enough ‘Stache Bros lineups in this game. The Thunder were +14 in offensive rebounds, but Houston was +6 in defensive rebounds. To beat a team like Houston, the Thunder need to be decisively winning the rebounding battle.
- Jerami Grant should’ve played more in this game. Since adding McDermott to the roster, Grant’s minutes have gone down. The Thunder defense was just awful tonight. So why not play Grant and see if you can get anything offensively from him? He’s pretty average on both ends of the floor, but at least he’s not as much of an offensive liability as Roberson.
- Patrick Beverley had 0 points in 28 minutes. This really surprised me. He’s not a great offensive player by any means, but only 8 players played tonight for Houston. How can a team score 137 points when one of their players goes scoreless for 28 minutes?
- As it stands now, Houston is the team the Thunder will see in the playoffs. Obviously, there’s plenty of games to be played and this could easily change, but there’s a good chance this is a preview for the first round. I think the Thunder match up much better against San Antonio than Houston.
- I miss Mike D’Antoni’s mustache.
Next Up: Tomorrow at Dallas at 7:30 pm.