Game 6 Preview: 3-on-3 – OKC at Houston

Three Red94 writers weigh in on three pressing questions about game 6 between the Thunder and the Rockets.

1. Houston could be the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit because…

Michael Pina: The opposing team’s second best player is out for the playoffs with a knee injury. Before Russell Westbrook went down, most already though the Rockets could win one, even two, games in this series. But their small-ball lineups now look extra explosive with Scott Brooks playing Derek Fisher 30 minutes a game.
Rob Dover: The Thunder just aren’t the same team without Westbrook. The Rockets can exploit his absence – they are free to key on Durant and don’t have to worry about their frail transition defense being abused. McHale has been comprehensively outcoaching Brooks and on the back of his smallball tactics the Rockets are capable of getting hot and swiping the last two games.
Paul McGuire:It looks like they’ve managed to regain their shooting touch from long range. The Rockets shot under 33% from long range for all 3 losses, but shot above 40% in their two wins. Something as mercurial as 3 point shooting can go away in an instant, but Houston cannot afford that if they want to make history.2. Houston will not be the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit because…
Pina: There’s a reason Kevin Durant is the second best player in the world, and that this team was a questionable LeBron James no-call from going up 2-0 on the Miami Heat in last year’s NBA Finals. That reason is the Thunder are very, very good.
Dover: It’s too much to ask for the Thunder’s complementary players to struggle on their home court again in game 7. If Martin and Sefalosha had made a few more of their open looks on Wednesday the series could have been done already. It’s probably too much to ask of this young Rockets team to win two games in Loud City.
McGuire:Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin will show up eventually. There have been the usual foolish concerns about whether Durant, who has scored a ridiculous 74 points on 39 shots over Games 4 and 5, is a “winner,” but he’s had very little help for the past two games from OKC’s next best players. If all three of them have a good game, Houston really does not have a chance.3. Jeremy Lin has not played in the Rockets 2 wins. Coincidence or causality?
Pina: Coincidence. I’m leaning towards coincidence even though Lin’s absence has allowed players like Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks to thrive in what would be his minutes, but Westbrook’s injury is far more significant than anything the Rockets have done.
Dover: Total coincidence. The turnaround is all about Westbrook and nothing to do with Lin. I worry that if Lin tries to come back too soon he might hurt the team though. He was a non-factor trying to play through pain in Game 3 and McHale should only put him in if he is confident Lin will be able to do more than just shuttle the ball round the perimeter.
McGuire: Coincidence, and I like to think I’ve been fairly tough on Lin this season. A team surging for a brief moment after a key player is injured is not uncommon, whether it is Houston defeating the Clippers after Harden sat out or the Lakers surging to the playoffs after Kobe’s torn Achilles. But over the long term, there is no doubt that the Rockets are better with Lin than without.

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Total comments: 13
  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin played and the Rockets lose. Is Lin playing and the Rockets losing tonight a coincidence or a casuality?


    Causality. It was clear that Lin was still hurting. Others should have been given his minutes.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Coincidence. If you're not giving those minutes to Lin then you're giving those minutes to Brooks. In 10 minutes Brooks made defensive mistakes and turned the ball over twice. If it's a matter of picking your poison, I'd pick the guy who helped get us into the playoffs this season and will do so again next season.

  • HoopsReportCard says 1 YEAR ago

    McHale was asked to comment on the team's momentum and he said "That's silly talk, Thunder had 3-0 momentum and now we're going to game 6, how much good did that momentum do them?". via Jason Friedman's podcast today

    If Lin can play (according to Jason Friedman he was shooting fine today) then give him a chance. He was huge for us the final months of the season, he deserves a chance off the bench at least, plus Delfino is injured so McHale needs to figure something out.

    Lin played and the Rockets lose. Is Lin playing and the Rockets losing tonight a coincidence or a casuality?

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    McHale was asked to comment on the team's momentum and he said "That's silly talk, Thunder had 3-0 momentum and now we're going to game 6, how much good did that momentum do them?". via Jason Friedman's podcast today

    If Lin can play (according to Jason Friedman he was shooting fine today) then give him a chance. He was huge for us the final months of the season, he deserves a chance off the bench at least, plus Delfino is injured so McHale needs to figure something out.

  • HoopsReportCard says 1 YEAR ago

    I disagree with you that its casusality that the rockets are winning without Lin. With Lin in game 1 and 2 the team averaged 15 to's. Game 3 through 5 they had 12, 22 and 11 = 44 To's per game which is 14.67 per game, if you take away the where lin played some in game 3 the turnover per game comes to 16.5 per game. So if you want to go with small sample size it means that the time Lin would have had the ball someone else has to take care of the ball and the team will average aboutt he same turnovers. Lin has his flaws dribbling the ball and make 1-2 bad decision a game, but he makes it up with setting up easy basket for his team which he is superior to Bev.

    On the other had Bev is a better defender and fits better with harden. But the biggest reason that our turnovers don't lead to fast break points is because you have the most athletic pg in westbrook being replaced by the slowest pg ever in Fisher and a rookie. You saw how easily Russ blew pass us. Because westbrook is injured we can focus on KD doubling and trippling sometimes to force other to make a shot. Also KD has to expend so much energy that he becomes more tired and a little less efficient look at KD's turnover.

    All these factors breaks down to our transition defence looks better and overall half court gets slightly more efficient because OKC basically have a point forward who is the only one who can create his own shot consistently.

    I belive we have a great shot but its coincidental that most of these factors works in our favor. Saying all this, I just don't think we should play Lin tonight even though he is ready to suit up because it might ruin the tempo and rhytm we have at the moment, I would rather wait for an eventual 2nd round , or if we are struggling offensively in this game or next one to insert him to get a boost.

    I agree with you that the Rockets have a great shot. I also agree with you that Lin should sit out until the 2nd round if the Rockets want to win. They have the momentum, they have a good rotation and they have the Thunder on the ropes.

    @HoopsReportCard

  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    Rocketrick said on another post, and I completely agree, that we should play Lin tonight if he is 100%, but play him from the bench, as a sixth man. I think it's more than a valuable option if somehow Brooks isn't manhandling Fisher. I'm not saying he should play 30+ minutes, but I'd like to see 10-15 full throttle minutes out of him, preferently when Harden rests.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    I Hate to say this but the Rockets winning without Lin is NOT a coincidence. When the Rockets can keep turnovers low and shoot the 3 ball well they have generally fared well. Lin is good at pushing the pace and getting his teammates easy buckets but Lin's turnover rate, inability to drive left and sometimes questionable decisions would have out the Rockets out of the series. Again I hate to say this.
    But consider this Patrick Beverly committed 0 turnovers in game 3, 0 in game 4 and 1 turnover in game 5. Remember game 4, houston won by 2 points and narrowly escaped overtime when Serge Ibaka missed the put-back attempt as time expired... Insert Jeremy Lin into Beverly's place and maybe 1 turnover vs Beverly's 0 turns a win into a loss. MAYBE
    But not all turnovers are atrocious. They are part of the game. But the kind that stems from poor ball handling skills or the kind that lead directly to points for the other team are the killers.

    If houston wills themselves to a third consecutive victory and forces a game 7 in OKC then I like their chances to make history for 3 reasons. 1) momentum and confidence from a 3 game win streak 2) the home crowd in OKC didn't matter in game 5, nor did hack-ASIK work nor did Brooks coaching moves 3) two words- JAMES HARDEN! [back in OKC to finish>
    @HoopsReportCard

    I disagree with you that its casusality that the rockets are winning without Lin. With Lin in game 1 and 2 the team averaged 15 to's. Game 3 through 5 they had 12, 22 and 11 = 44 To's per game which is 14.67 per game, if you take away the where lin played some in game 3 the turnover per game comes to 16.5 per game. So if you want to go with small sample size it means that the time Lin would have had the ball someone else has to take care of the ball and the team will average aboutt he same turnovers. Lin has his flaws dribbling the ball and make 1-2 bad decision a game, but he makes it up with setting up easy basket for his team which he is superior to Bev.

    On the other had Bev is a better defender and fits better with harden. But the biggest reason that our turnovers don't lead to fast break points is because you have the most athletic pg in westbrook being replaced by the slowest pg ever in Fisher and a rookie. You saw how easily Russ blew pass us. Because westbrook is injured we can focus on KD doubling and trippling sometimes to force other to make a shot. Also KD has to expend so much energy that he becomes more tired and a little less efficient look at KD's turnover.

    All these factors breaks down to our transition defence looks better and overall half court gets slightly more efficient because OKC basically have a point forward who is the only one who can create his own shot consistently.

    I belive we have a great shot but its coincidental that most of these factors works in our favor. Saying all this, I just don't think we should play Lin tonight even though he is ready to suit up because it might ruin the tempo and rhytm we have at the moment, I would rather wait for an eventual 2nd round , or if we are struggling offensively in this game or next one to insert him to get a boost.

  • PKM says 1 YEAR ago

    I disagree with McGuire's answer to question #2. He must of forgot that the game #4 win came off the back of a VERY poor night from Harden (15pts. 10 TOs) and we still pulled it out, had it been textbook James, we would have blown them out. Thelikelihoodof BOTH Serge and K-Mart having breakout offensive games is less than any one or two of Brooks, Garcia, Parsons, Lin(?), Bev and Asik having stellar offensive performances to go along with a normal Harden night. Asik is too good defensively to let Serge do much in the paint, and his jumper is not up to par yet from what I've seen. For Martin to light the scoreboard up means you're taking opportunities away from Durant, and Martin is pretty stoppable lately, especially with the officials not calling the contact he generates. If Martin is put in to provide points, they will be cancelled out by whoever he's guarding on D. Also Serge has yet to be a defensive factor and I suspect his energies will be more focused there (herein lies the genius of McHale's small-ball lineups).

    1. In general, I'm not a huge fan of the "Lesser Player X takes away shots from Better player Y" argument. Durant has plenty of opportunities with the ball - as I stated, he's had 39 shots over the past two games. While that could be higher, Rahat pointed out that at this point, he has to carry the ball up and basically run the entire offense Tracy McGrady style, and that tires a guy out. If Martin can take pressure off of Durant by scoring like he managed to do even in his final season with us, that will significantly open things up. Houston's entire defense is predicated on "Cover Durant at all times and let the others beat us". And in this case, the others are Ibaka and Martin.

    2. You mentioned that Ibaka's jumper is not up to par yet, but that's a big part of Serge's offensive arsenal over this year. He's a very good jump shooter, with percentages from range that are in fact better than Bosh - I'm not saying Ibaka is a better jumpshooter than Bosh especially since a huge amount of Ibaka's jumpers were assisted from, but he's not this bad. From my perspective, offensively, Ibaka and Martin are definitely better at scoring than Brooks, Beverley, Garcia, or Asik, Lin won't be in great condition even assuming he does play, which leaves only Parsons.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    I disagree with McGuire's answer to question #2. He must of forgot that the game #4 win came off the back of a VERY poor night from Harden (15pts. 10 TOs) and we still pulled it out, had it been textbook James, we would have blown them out. Thelikelihoodof BOTH Serge and K-Mart having breakout offensive games is less than any one or two of Brooks, Garcia, Parsons, Lin(?), Bev and Asik having stellar offensive performances to go along with a normal Harden night. Asik is too good defensively to let Serge do much in the paint, and his jumper is not up to par yet from what I've seen. For Martin to light the scoreboard up means you're taking opportunities away from Durant, and Martin is pretty stoppable lately, especially with the officials not calling the contact he generates. If Martin is put in to provide points, they will be cancelled out by whoever he's guarding on D. Also Serge has yet to be a defensive factor and I suspect his energies will be more focused there (herein lies the genius of McHale's small-ball lineups).

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin played all 82 regular season games and produced 13 PPG while playing off (his weakest). Clearly second best play maker behind Harden.

    Westbrook absent was huge factor. Durant cannot manage the floor like him. Westbrook is much more important to OKC than LIn is to Houston.

  • HoopsReportCard says 1 YEAR ago I Hate to say this but the Rockets winning without Lin is NOT a coincidence. When the Rockets can keep turnovers low and shoot the 3 ball well they have generally fared well. Lin is good at pushing the pace and getting his teammates easy buckets but Lin's turnover rate, inability to drive left and sometimes questionable decisions would have out the Rockets out of the series. Again I hate to say this.
    But consider this Patrick Beverly committed 0 turnovers in game 3, 0 in game 4 and 1 turnover in game 5. Remember game 4, houston won by 2 points and narrowly escaped overtime when Serge Ibaka missed the put-back attempt as time expired... Insert Jeremy Lin into Beverly's place and maybe 1 turnover vs Beverly's 0 turns a win into a loss. MAYBE
    But not all turnovers are atrocious. They are part of the game. But the kind that stems from poor ball handling skills or the kind that lead directly to points for the other team are the killers.

    If houston wills themselves to a third consecutive victory and forces a game 7 in OKC then I like their chances to make history for 3 reasons. 1) momentum and confidence from a 3 game win streak 2) the home crowd in OKC didn't matter in game 5, nor did hack-ASIK work nor did Brooks coaching moves 3) two words- JAMES HARDEN! [back in OKC to finish>
    @HoopsReportCard
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    95% coincidence 5% casualty

    The ball is in Harden's hands alot, and Beverley simply does more than Lin does away from the ball. Still, Beverley is no where near as much of an upgrade over Lin than Fisher/Jackson are a downgrade from Westbrook.

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago Causality. Beverly is better with Harden then Lin is, ATM.