FINAL SCORE: Thunder 105 – Rockets 102
How was this not a blowout? The Thunder were up by 15 points, at home, in the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook was doing Westbrook-ian things (29 points, 4 steals, and took more shots than anyone else). Kevin Durant was dominating at his casual best (25 points in the first 3 quarters). Serge Ibaka was closing in on a triple-double (12 points, 11 boards, 6 blocks).
But then something odd started happening.
The zone defense that Kevin McHale employed started to affect the Thunder’s rhythm. James Harden started taking over on the offensive end. Omer Asik appeared to grow an additional 6 inches and was grabbing every rebound in sight. Rookie, Patrick Beverley, rewarded his coach’s decision to boost his minutes by forcing a momentum-gaining turnover. Six minutes later, Houston had run off an astounding 21-2 run, capped by a seemingly back-breaking three-pointer by Carlos Delfino.
After a relatively quiet fourth quarter, Durant drained a 3-pointer to regain a lead they would never relinquish. On the next possession, and over a minute remaining, Durant drove, attracted the defense, and found an open Thabo Sefolosha for the nail-in-the-coffin 3-pointer.
MVP & LVP
Despite playing in the long shadows of Harden, Westbrook, and Durant, Beverley’s contribution was more important than anyone else’s. The first-year Guard out of Arkansas was basically given Jeremy Lin’s starter minutes and filled the stats sheet: 16 points, 12 rebounds (He’s 6’1!!! Plus, the Thunder are the 6th ranked rebounding team), 6 assists, 2 steals, and a blocked shot. The dubious honour of LVP goes to Delfino. Although the Argentinian was able to knock down a clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter, he was also invisible for most of the game, scoring 11 points, missing seven 3-point attempts, and doing this all while being given a healthy 36 minutes.
Looking Forward to Houston
Houston has a lot of positives to take back home. They owned the paint, out-rebounding Oklahoma City, 57-40, and out-scoring them 50-30. Looks like we’ll continue to see a lot of small ball from the Rockets. As for Oklahoma City, Westbrook can single-handedly break the zone defense. Durant, Thabo Sefolosha, and Kevin Martin just need to give him room to operate and find his shooters for open 3′s.
<30% from three = problems for us
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) April 25, 2013
This is starting to feel like The James Harden Game we were hoping for in the OKC-Rockets series. Shit I just jinxed it. DELETE! DELETE!
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 25, 2013
Funny thing is, Perk wasn’t even trying to hide holding Parsons. KG at least makes it look like incidental contact.
— netw3rk (@netw3rk) April 25, 2013