Game 2 is in the books and the Rockets successfully protected home court advantage with a 2-0 lead heading back to The Thunder. Westbrook put on a show dropping 51-13-10, but needed 43 shots on the night to do so. Harden finished the night going 35-8-4 but only took 17 shots on the night. Harden feasted on the line with 20 free throw attempts. Looking at the box score tells the tale of this game as three other Rockets finish with 15 points with Eric Gordon and Lou Williams finishing with 20-plus. This game more than the last showed the separation between the two teams and why the rest of this series may seem eerily like this game moving forward.
Again, The Thunder took control of this game early. At one point The Thunder enjoyed a 15-point lead in the first quarter. The Thunder’s offense was rolling in the first period, being able to draw the Rocket’s big men out of the paint and score on easy layups by Westbrook or rely on his ability to find someone for a dish. This was The Thunder’s winning formula for most of the year and it again seemed to be working heading into the fourth quarter. However, the end of the third quarter showed why The Thunder is the Westbrook show while The Rocket is Harden and Co. The Thunder had a 12-point lead towards the end of the third, then Westbrook sat down for the final 2 minutes and the lead was cut to three going into the last period. The glaring difference in team quality with Westbrook off the floor is staggering.
The Thunder’s frontcourt in this game shined in the first half. Both Gibson and Adams shot 50-percent from the field and I would like to see the ball put into their hands more to slow the game down. Westbrook is a dynamo, yes, but he can’t play 48 minutes a night and the Thunder look vacant if he’s not on the floor. Mix this with a still struggling Oladipo (11pts on 4/14(1-7 3Pt)), the Thunder’s offense is non-existent without Westbrook on the floor.
This causes problems for a guy who wants to get his teammates involved but doesn’t know who to turn to. The Thunder’s offense by committee after Westbrook is not working out. Especially with the team shooting 7-30 from 3-point range. The Thunder have not been a good 3PT team all season long and that won’t change now.
The Thunder need to lean on their experienced front court more going forward. Adam and Kanter are more than capable of carrying a scoring load and Westbrook is just going to have to trust one of them.
The depth of scoring for the Rockets might be too much for Oklahoma. Despite only playing an eight-man rotation, four of those players scored in the high double figures. With Harden abusing the paint for free throws, it allowed for Beverley, Gordon, and Williams to all come up big on the perimeter, al shooting 50-percent or above from deep. The Box score shows this game as being close, but had it not been for Westbrook’s herculean effort, this game could have easily been a blowout victory for the Rockets.
The Rocket’s backcourt has been feasting on anyone not named Westbrook or Roberson. Capela is slowly turning into a presence in the middle and if he can turn into Biyombo from last year, The Rocket could be looking at a solid chance of making it to at least the Western Conference Finals, maybe even a title.
The Thunder need an offensive answer besides Westbrook. McDermott shot 75-percent from deep this game, but was only on the floor for 14 minutes. My suggestion for the Thunder is to cut the lineup short so more of the bench can get into a scoring rhythm. This adjustment may be impossible to find now, as the Thunder have become accustomed to being a committee around Westbrook.
Game 3 is a must win for the Thunder. I don’t see them extending this series from being a sweep should they go down 0-3. The Rockets match up too well in the backcourt, and the Thunder have had no answer. The Thunder also cannot allow for Westbrook to feel like he must do it all to close out a game. Westbrook going 4/18 (1-7 3-point field goals) in the fourth is a sign that the Thunder need another answer on the offensive end and they need it fast.
Baseline Times Staff Writer