Rockets eliminate Thunder in 105-99 win

On a night that felt like all the others in this series, the Rockets end the series against the Thunder with a 105-99 victory at home. James Harden lead the way for Houston with 34-8-4, while Russell Westbrook finished with 47-11-9. In a series between the two likely MVP’s (my vote is for Westbrook), you would think the level of play would’ve been elevated, it was not. A duel between MVPs boiled down to free throws, ugly three point shots, and a Thunder team helpless without their general on the floor.

This series was ugly. It was ugly on offense and it was ugly on defense. The Rockets never felt like they were winning the series, so much as Oklahoma City just kept losing. Every game saw the Thunder charge out the gate to a lead, only for Harden and co. to flip the script come the 4th quarter. With Westbrook off the floor, the Thunder just disappeared. Stagnant on offense and near immobile on defense without him, the Thunder lose everything without Brodie on the court.

Houston didn’t play particularly well this series either. Going 6-37 from downtown in a closeout game and still winning would be you think preposterous. Not in today’s league, and not when those missed 3’s can be supplemented with 39 free throws in a game. Those 39 freebies alluding the to aggressively bad defense of the Thunder mixed with the contact fiending Rockets. There were many a times when the Rockets offense boiled down to Harden or Williams popping a contact jumper after a high screen from Nene. Yet the Thunder were never able to stop it.

Game 5 felt more like the swan song for team Brodie then for the Rockets moving on. Westbrook needs help. Westbrook needs someone to lighten the load so that when he comes off the bench he doesn’t have to start jacking up shots because either no one else will or the other team goes on a massive run without Westbrook on the court. In the 4th, Westbrook went 2-11 (0-5 from 3FG), because no one else was willing to shoot. Too many of the Thunder’s half-court offense revolves around waiting until Westbrook makes a play and then react accordingly. That may carry you to the Playoffs, but when the other team has 6 players on the night in double figures, it becomes increasingly hard to rely on. Williams, Nene, Gordon, Beverly, Capela, Ariza, Anderson, all these guys stepped up on one night or another and helped Harden get the W. Westbrook didn’t have the luxury of that rotating cast to keep the ship afloat, and the Thunder sank without him.

The Thunder need to bring someone in next season. They need someone for Westbrook to trust. The Thunder are a young team, in fact the youngest in the playoffs, so maybe there will come hope with development.

It’s sad to see a first-round exit for a team a year ago that was a major title contender. When Golden State lured Durant away it wasn’t for themselves, it was to keep him off OKC and drop them off the conference as a legitimate contender. It sadly worked.

The Rockets will be awaiting the winner of the Spurs-Grizzlies series which is set for at least six games.

Markus Murden
Baseline Times Staff Writer