The Rockets take Game 1. This was definitely a tale of two halves for OKC.
The first half of this game was strange to watch. The Thunder were the best rebounding team in the league this season, yet Houston was +7 in rebounds. The Rockets are the best team three-point shooting team in the NBA, but the Thunder were +3 in three-pointers made on the same number of attempts. Both teams were finding success in uncharacteristic methods in that first half, but the Rockets found their groove in the second half and the Thunder didn’t have an answer.
Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo both struggled pretty hard in this game. Russ finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals on 6-of-23 from the field. Combine the inefficient shooting with 9 turnovers and that’s a recipe for disaster. Oladipo made his post-season debut and the only positive I came away from his performance tonight is that it can only get better from here. Oladipo finished with 2 points on 1-of-12 from the field. Russ and Oladipo are easily the best offensive players for the Thunder and the starting back court has to be better if they’re going to win against Houston.
James Harden led Houston to a big win tonight with 37 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 steals. Roberson had the assignment of guarding Harden, but The Beard still found plenty of scoring opportunities. Harden did a great job of finding mismatches off screens and capitalizing against weaker defenders like Kanter.
- Steven Adams laid out Patrick Beverley with a hard screen. Adams just did what every Thunder fan has wanted to do for years
- Andre Roberson had one of the best games of his career. Before tonight, it had been exactly one month before Roberson had made a three-pointer. He celebrated the occasion by hitting four consecutive shots behind the arc and finished the night with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks and 2 steals. He went 7-of-10 from the field and just added some money to the contract he’ll get this offseason. Roberson’s performance was the biggest silver lining of Game 1 for OKC, but unfortunately, it came in a loss. Houston is baiting Roberson to make three-pointers by leaving him wide open and I doubt that Roberson will be able replicate 18 points again in the series. Roberson did a great job of guarding James Harden without getting into foul trouble.
- Patrick Beverley had a very solid night with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.
- The Rockets ended the game +15 in rebounds, +7 in offensive rebounds, +24 for points in the paint and +27 in second-chance points. Those are areas where the Thunder have to dominate. OKC will lose this series if they try to out-shoot Houston or put their focus on matching Houston’s small-ball rotations.
- The playoff rotation so far looks fairly similar to the regular season rotation. Jerami Grant played 27 minutes and I think that’s an adjustment that needs to be tweaked. Grant played mostly at power forward and that’s taking away playing time from Adams, Kanter and Gibson. The Thunder simply need to play their best players more minutes. The playoffs are all about making adjustments and that’s one of Billy Donovan’s strengths as a coach.
- Nene and Clint Capela significantly outperformed the front court for the Thunder. Nene averaged 14 points in the regular season against OKC and tonight he had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block in 19 minutes. Capela had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks.
- Keep in mind that Victor Oladipo, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines, Semaj Christon and Domantas Sabonis all played in their first NBA playoff game tonight.
Next Up: Game 2 in Houston on Wednesday at 7:00 pm CST