Houston Rockets 98, Oklahoma City Thunder 106 – Embracing Villainy

Patrick Beverley has been talked about a lot recently. He left a trail of havoc everywhere he went against the Heat, he had his spat with Damian Lillard, he’s been receiving some attention (I’m not sure I’d call it love, exactly) from national media. So tonight all eyes were on him as he returned to Oklahoma City for his first rematch against Russell Westbrook since the incident that first gained him notoriety last year. Boos rained down from the crowd whenever he touched the ball, and there was a charged atmosphere whenever he and Westbrook squared off at the beginning of the possessions. But ultimately that battle and the inevitable testiness that ensued (there were at least three shoving matches at various points of the game) was more of a distraction than a focal point – the Thunder amassed a 10 point cushion in the second quarter and although the Rockets showed signs emulating their escape against Portland a few nights before the Thunder were rock-steady down the stretch to hold them at bay.

Some thoughts:

  • Until tonight, I felt like Beverley had been a bit misunderstood by the world at large. A tenacious defender who plays with a lot of effort, I thought, but not someone who plays mind games or behaves maliciously. However his actions in this game would seem to repudiate that. As Westbrook jogged up the court to call a timeout, Beverley attempted to stage a re-enactment of the famous play from last year’s playoffs on the same exact spot of the court. It was artless and crude – clearly not an attempt to actually go for the ball (since Westbrook was holding the ball in two hands with his back to Beverley), but trying to get Westbrook to lose his cool. Tempers flared, Patrick was (quite rightly) assessed a technical, and I was forced to reconsider my opinion of the man. To me, this was not an action that fit in with the framework of who I thought Beverley was.
  • I said before the game that Westbrook was what scares me about the Thunder. Durant may have dominated the box-score with his 41 effortless points, but it was Russell’s 24 that felt worse. For all that Durant is nigh-on impossible to stop, defenders can at least attempt to make life difficult for him. But Westbrook in the open court is an unstoppable maelstrom of relentless fury, and even making an attempt at slowing him down is difficult. There’s something about the hyper-kinetic way Westbrook drives into the teeth of the defence for a layup or bends it to his will before kicking out for an open three pointer that just feels demoralising in a way that Durant’s cool perfection doesn’t.
  • Howard had an unexpectedly poor game in the post tonight. With Perkins out there was an opportunity there for him to impose himself, but he struggled against Adams, Ibaka and Thabeet. The Thunder commentators (shout out to them by the way – they were very fair and balanced in their calls, unlike some others I could mention) were pointing out how predictable his moves were, and I agree – Howard was attempting to spin baseline every time, almost never going middle. This is a change from his normal MO where he tends to go middle more often, and it didn’t look very good. He kept getting trapped behind the backboard and forced reposition before going up, giving the Thunder defenders time to challenge (and often block) his shot.
  • Francisco Garcia saw some court time for the first time in a while, and did a very good job. I suspect McHale threw him out there because of his history of doing a decent job guarding Durant dating back to the playoffs last year. He made some good defensive plays (including one of his classic unexpected blocks) but was also the catalyst for the Rockets getting back into the game in the fourth quarter as he went 3-4 from behind the arc. Obviously it’s injury dependent, but I’d like to see McHale mix and match between Hamilton and Garcia depending on the matchup – Garcia for teams with good SFs, Hamilton for teams with good SGs.
  • The Rockets managed to cut the lead to 5 at one point in the fourth, but they were unable to get the stops they needed to get back to level terms. From my viewpoint this was down to failing to contain initial penetration off the dribble. In a manner very reminiscent of last year’s playoff series, the Thunder were able to get into the paint often and suck in the help-side defence. Unlike last year though, when the ball was kicked out to an open three point shooter the Thunder’s shooters made their shots. This kept the Rockets’ runs at bay and it was fitting that Westbrook drew a foul from Beverley while taking a three pointer with 90 seconds left to ice the game.

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  • QNoir says 5 months ago

    I thought our guards seemed hesitant to shoot last night. OKC's team defensive strategy is to crowd the paint and not let you beat them inside. They fly to the ball when it gets into the post. There were countless times where we had open outside looks, and didn't put it up. Parsons, Hamilton, Beverely, and even Harden a couple times seemed like they were hesitant. We would pass on the open outside shot. Garcia and Lin were the only two players I saw shoot it with confidence. Harden also played really well in the second half and was shooting with confidence. I don't know, it just seemed like we were trying too much to attack them inside where that is their greatest strength defensively. I understand you want to score inside, but if they are giving you the open looks outside, you have to make a few shots to loosen up the D.

    Yeah, I agree. I thought the midrange game was there for them, but they didn't take those shots. And everyone really tried to cram it inside when it just wasn't working. I wouldn't blame it on the guards entirely, because when they passed the ball, they never saw it again. Dwight didn't really kick the ball out at all, and neither did Chandler or TJones. They had too much confidence inside. No idea why. Hopefully they start to remember the out of the inside-out game.

  • txtdo1411 says 5 months ago

    I thought our guards seemed hesitant to shoot last night. OKC's team defensive strategy is to crowd the paint and not let you beat them inside. They fly to the ball when it gets into the post. There were countless times where we had open outside looks, and didn't put it up. Parsons, Hamilton, Beverely, and even Harden a couple times seemed like they were hesitant. We would pass on the open outside shot. Garcia and Lin were the only two players I saw shoot it with confidence. Harden also played really well in the second half and was shooting with confidence. I don't know, it just seemed like we were trying too much to attack them inside where that is their greatest strength defensively. I understand you want to score inside, but if they are giving you the open looks outside, you have to make a few shots to loosen up the D.

  • Alituro says 5 months ago

    Win or lose, the more games like this, the better Rox will be prepared for play offs IMO

    Right you are!

  • BrentYen says 5 months ago Win or lose, the more games like this, the better Rox will be prepared for play offs IMO
  • QNoir says 5 months ago

    What I saw was a bunch of players unwilling to pass the ball, because they knew they wouldn't get it back. I think they all wanted to have big games, but failed to see the big picture. Playing a team like the Thunder does not require a greater individual performance from anyone. It requires a greater team performance. There's a reason for that. Thunder defense isn't going to let any single guy regularly create his own shot. There was just no passing. I understand the bigs failed to finish inside when they did receive good passes. Maybe they should think about developing a better mid-range game. Those shots looked to be there for them on several occasions, but only Harden was taking advantage of it.

  • bob schmidt says 5 months ago

    Houston did not suffer a beat-down last night, the game stats were surprisingly close. It seemed as if we suffered a mental beat-down though, and beat ourselves in the process. As the game progressed, Dwight kept getting pushed out of position, and that seems to discourage him more than it should. I felt like he was "pouty" all evening, blaming his problems on uncalled fouls. Frankly, I don't think that he likes games that get very physical.

    Beverly disappointed me with his seeming mission for the game to "beat" Westbrook. His two late game fouls on Westbrook on 3 pt. shots were not excusable in my mind. That was not "team" ball and McHale pulled him for it. Good for McHale, Beverly had let the individual contest between himself and Westbrook get out of hand.

    It seemed to me that Ibaka hurt us more than Westbrook in many respects. With 16 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive, and 4 blocks, he totally dominated TJ, Motie, and Hamilton. Without the extra possessions that he provided, Houston might have saved this game. One thing for sure is that when Ibaka has a big game in addition to KD and Westbrook, OKC is a tough team to beat.

    I'm not overly discouraged by this loss, it might even serve a good purpose. We have to learn to play our own type of game as a team, and leave the personal crap out of the mix. As an afterthought, did anyone other than me notice that the Rockets lacked the look of joy from playing the game? My hope is that the Rockets will toughen up from games like last night to develop the mentality of a champion.

  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    I don't think we should pile on Dwight. Yes, he had a poor game. He went 4-12 from the field and 1-6 from the line with 2 turnovers. I'm ok with this. His shots weren't falling. If he had gone 4-8 with 6 turnovers I would be upset. He was getting shots off and they just weren't falling the way they have been. I do agree that Adams and Ibaka were forcing him into tougher looks. I would have liked the Rockets to adjust to Ibaka paying too much attention to Dwight with lots of backside cuts...that didn't seem to happen.

  • Cooper says 5 months ago

    I thought Howard really backed down when the team needed him to step up in a high intensity game. He's supposed to be the second guy, Harden did his job and more but he can not match Westbrook and Durant on his own. kind of a worrying trend, we already knew perkins handled him pretty well but now it looks like adams who is basically a big man version of beverely combined with ibaka helping can bottle up howard as well.

  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    100% agree.

  • feelingsupersonic says 5 months ago I gotcha Sir Thursday! Thanks for the write up, good stuff as always!

    That's right johnnygold, just a step back. I should look at the statistics but lately when Parsons gets above 15 shots or so he just looks less efficient than he could be if he was moving the ball more. To me Parsons should really help the ball to continue to move (to Howard, Harden, Lin, somebody for an open 3) more whereas I am okay with the ball slowing down once it gets into Harden's hands. I don't think Parsons should shoot himself out of a bad night like Harden and Lin should rather he should find other things to do that make a difference.
  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    I agree that this game, while disappointing, was not disheartening. We left a ton of points on the rim. TJones, Parsons (who looked sluggish--I began to wonder if his back was acting up again), Asik, and Dwight. Just about everyone. Lin shot well. Harden did his thing. But all those balls that rolled/bounced off the rim hurt us.

    That may have been the most aggressive I've ever seen Westbrook. He looked so much faster than everybody else it's a wonder he didn't get to the rim on every single play. That blend of speed and control is rare.

    I really enjoyed watching the game--it had a high intensity level that will help us come playoff time. I also liked that McHale was pulling strongs from the sideline and they nearly got us back in the game.

    FSS, I agree that Parsons needs to take a step back. His shot has flattened out even more. His steps are slow. His runners and floaters look forced and awkward. Guys aren't biting on his pump fake. Yet, he is still putting up decent stat lines (my fantasy team appreciates that).

  • Sir Thursday says 5 months ago

    I have to respectfully disagree with the post game analysis. I have no problem with Beverley or anything he did. All his efforts whether questionable or not make him who he is. It's easy on paper or in a blog to write Beverley cannot conduct himself the way he did at certain times last night (not saying you implied that Rob) but the reality is on the court you get all of that when you get Beverley, it's part of the whole package. Personally I am glad there is a Rockets player who teeters the line between basketball plays and aggression. All throughout NBA history good to great teams have had enforcers or physical players that fulfill a role that the star players may not. I kind of wish we had a bruiser on the frontline but no one on this roster is really that hard.

    I agree Alituro, considering this game seemed as out of hand as it did it got close with pretty much just Harden delivering and a couple guys helping a little. Parsons play and decision making has been regressing in my opinion. I think he shoots too much here lately and should focus on other ways to impact the game.

    I'm not saying that I had a problem with it, per se, just that it did not seem in keeping with the my image of him and the philosophy he espoused during his interview on the Lillard thing. It turns him from a "player that everyone should appreciate for his hustle regardless of fan affiliation" to "player that you'll only love if he's on your team" in my eyes. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's just good to know where we stand. Before, I had a vague urge to argue his corner when the topic came up with non-Rockets fans, but now I know there's no point.

    ST

  • feelingsupersonic says 5 months ago

    I have to respectfully disagree with the post game analysis. I have no problem with Beverley or anything he did. All his efforts whether questionable or not make him who he is. It's easy on paper or in a blog to write Beverley cannot conduct himself the way he did at certain times last night (not saying you implied that Rob) but the reality is on the court you get all of that when you get Beverley, it's part of the whole package. Personally I am glad there is a Rockets player who teeters the line between basketball plays and aggression. All throughout NBA history good to great teams have had enforcers or physical players that fulfill a role that the star players may not. I kind of wish we had a bruiser on the frontline but no one on this roster is really that hard.

    I agree Alituro, considering this game seemed as out of hand as it did it got close with pretty much just Harden delivering and a couple guys helping a little. Parsons' play and decision making has been regressing in my opinion. I think he shoots too much here lately and should focus on other ways to impact the game.

  • Alituro says 5 months ago

    Few teams have the luxury to spend 12 hard fouls from Adamses and Thabeets (add 6 when Perk is playing) while still being able to have an elite blocker cleaning up at the rim like Ibaka. Inside-out was not the way to approach last night's game. Last season's play style would have been more effective.

  • Alituro says 5 months ago

    The way we played last night, it shouldn't have been a single digit loss, the fact that it was says a lot about our mettle. Just couldn't muster enough to take us over the top. I like Bev's role as the villain and I hope he keeps it up.

    It's my opinion that in games like last night's where a team obviously has Dwight's number all night long by virtue of prompt doubles and having tall guys in the post to force him baseline and the looming threat of Ibaka, that we should give Asik a lot more burn. Teams know that with D12 out there, posting him up ranks high in our offensive options. Putting Asik in, improves your post and PnR defense (IMO), and disallows them to take away a major part of our game plan on offense, we take it out ourselves. By removing the post option from our arsenal, allows the guards and wings to move the ball more and for Asik to commit to setting his beautiful screens and concentrate on 2nd chance scoring ops. The win against MEM on 11/25 comes to mind... With Thabo out, OKC's defensive fortitude is post-heavy, make them stop you all night on the wings instead. Coulda taken some gas out of Westbrook and forced Durant to play both ways.

  • John P says 5 months ago

    One piece away...

    That what I came away with from this game.
    We can beat great teams playing poorly or that are tired (Miami and Pacers), and we can beat good but not great pretenders (Portland) but we need another strong defensive wing that can really put the clamps down. Bev is good but we need another, Iggy type player.

    Could better play by Howard have helped...sure. Could it have won the game? No. We constantly looked like we were playing catchup. Harden shooting from above the 3 line just to get something going etc...

    Also, I don't mind Bev playing rough and tumble and even scaring Westbrook again. Westbrook has taken an accidental play in the playoffs and took it personal...the whole stadium did. The guy was just doing his job. If you are already the bad guy, play the way you think can win it. Bev didn't do anything wrong.

  • Red94 says 5 months ago New post: Houston Rockets 98, Oklahoma City Thunder 106 - Embracing Villainy
    By: Rob Dover

    Patrick Beverley has been talked about a lot recently. He left a trail of havoc everywhere he went against the Heat, he had his spat with Damian Lillard, he's been receiving some attention (I'm not sure I'd call it love, exactly) from national media. So tonight all eyes were on him as he returned to Oklahoma City for his first rematch against Russell Westbrook since the incident that first gained him notoriety last year. Boos rained down from the crowd whenever he touched the ball, and there was a charged atmosphere whenever he and Westbrook squared off at the beginning of the possessions. But ultimately that battle and the inevitable testiness that ensued (there were at least three shoving matches at various points of the game) was more of a distraction than a focal point - the Thunder amassed a 10 point cushion in the second quarter and although the Rockets showed signs emulating their escape against Portland a few nights before the Thunder were rock-steady down the stretch to hold them at bay.

    Some thoughts:

    • Until tonight, I felt like Beverley had been a bit misunderstood by the world at large. A tenacious defender who plays with a lot of effort, I thought, but not someone who plays mind games or behaves maliciously. However his actions in this game would seem to repudiate that. As Westbrook jogged up the court to call a timeout, Beverley attempted to stage a re-enactment of the famous play from last year's playoffs on the same exact spot of the court. It was artless and crude - clearly not an attempt to actually go for the ball (since Westbrook was holding the ball in two hands with his back to Beverley), but trying to get Westbrook to lose his cool. Tempers flared, Patrick was (quite rightly) assessed a technical, and I was forced to reconsider my opinion of the man. To me, this was not an action that fit in with the framework of who I thought Beverley was.
    • I said before the game that Westbrook was what scares me about the Thunder. Durant may have dominated the box-score with his 41 effortless points, but it was Russell's 24 that felt worse. For all that Durant is nigh-on impossible to stop, defenders can at least attempt to make life difficult for him. But Westbrook in the open court is an unstoppable maelstrom of relentless fury, and even making an attempt at slowing him down is difficult. There's something about the hyper-kinetic way Westbrook drives into the teeth of the defence for a layup or bends it to his will before kicking out for an open three pointer that just feels demoralising in a way that Durant's cool perfection doesn't.
    • Howard had an unexpectedly poor game in the post tonight. With Perkins out there was an opportunity there for him to impose himself, but he struggled against Adams, Ibaka and Thabeet. The Thunder commentators (shout out to them by the way - they were very fair and balanced in their calls, unlike some others I could mention) were pointing out how predictable his moves were, and I agree - Howard was attempting to spin baseline every time, almost never going middle. This is a change from his normal MO where he tends to go middle more often, and it didn't look very good. He kept getting trapped behind the backboard and forced reposition before going up, giving the Thunder defenders time to challenge (and often block) his shot.
    • Francisco Garcia saw some court time for the first time in a while, and did a very good job. I suspect McHale threw him out there because of his history of doing a decent job guarding Durant dating back to the playoffs last year. He made some good defensive plays (including one of his classic unexpected blocks) but was also the catalyst for the Rockets getting back into the game in the fourth quarter as he went 3-4 from behind the arc. Obviously it's injury dependent, but I'd like to see McHale mix and match between Hamilton and Garcia depending on the matchup - Garcia for teams with good SFs, Hamilton for teams with good SGs.
    • The Rockets managed to cut the lead to 5 at one point in the fourth, but they were unable to get the stops they needed to get back to level terms. From my viewpoint this was down to failing to contain initial penetration off the dribble. In a manner very reminiscent of last year's playoff series, the Thunder were able to get into the paint often and suck in the help-side defence. Unlike last year though, when the ball was kicked out to an open three point shooter the Thunder's shooters made their shots. This kept the Rockets' runs at bay and it was fitting that Westbrook drew a foul from Beverley while taking a three pointer with 90 seconds left to ice the game.
  • Sir Thursday says 5 months ago

    "Plus Westbrook with a grudge...yikes." (sir Thursday)

    I think that this is precisely why Houston has an excellent chance of winning tonight. His desire to "punish" the dastardly Beverly may elevate his game to that of a deflated helium balloon. It is my hope that Westbrook does approach this game with personal goals that may deny the team play needed to blunt the Rockets assault likely to occur this evening. My biggest fear is the potential for quick whistles from the referees which could be to our disadvantage.

    On the other hand, the Thunder may have a ton of foul problems with their bigs as they try to rebound and slow down the Rockets offense. After the dust has settled, I expect a Rockets victory, well earned... Guess that we will see, thanks to NBA fan game of the week.

    See, I don't really buy that Westbrook damages the team's offence. Yes, he takes shots away from Durant, but he also draws defensive attention that makes it so much easier for the rest of the team to get involved.

    I went and took a look at the shooting numbers of the rest of the Thunder squad with Westbrook on and off the court. The Thunder have 10 other players who average more than 10 MPG. Of those, only Durant and Sefolosha have shot worse with Westbrook on the court - the rest all have higher eFG%. So yes Durant is negatively impacted, but the rest of the rotation is improved. In particular, Serge Ibaka looks like a far better offensive player when he can run the pick-and-pop with Westbrook - it was noticeable how ineffective he was in the playoffs last year when Westbrook went down.

    Yes Westbrook can be a ballhog sometimes but I think the popular narrative on him is lagging a bit behind reality in this instance. People who watch the Thunder have been saying how much better of a passer he has become for a couple of seasons now.

    ST

  • bob schmidt says 5 months ago

    "Plus Westbrook with a grudge...yikes." (sir Thursday)

    I think that this is precisely why Houston has an excellent chance of winning tonight. His desire to "punish" the dastardly Beverly may elevate his game to that of a deflated helium balloon. It is my hope that Westbrook does approach this game with personal goals that may deny the team play needed to blunt the Rockets assault likely to occur this evening. My biggest fear is the potential for quick whistles from the referees which could be to our disadvantage.

    On the other hand, the Thunder may have a ton of foul problems with their bigs as they try to rebound and slow down the Rockets offense. After the dust has settled, I expect a Rockets victory, well earned... Guess that we will see, thanks to NBA fan game of the week.

  • Sir Thursday says 5 months ago

    IMO the Thunder are suffering much more from missing Sefolosha than Perkins. He is their primary perimeter defender, and it would be his job to shut down the Meekses and the Greens of this world. And guess who plays at the same position as those two? Why, none other than our own James Harden! Hopefully this weakness is something the Rockets will be able to exploit and Harden can keep up his ridiculous hot streak.

    I think this game will be a test of Brooks' inventiveness as a coach. He is going to have to patch together the holes in his lineup to deal with a team whose two best players would normally be defended by those holes. This is the sort of thing good coaches can improvise around, but the knock on Brooks in the past has been that he is a very reactionary coach...I guess we'll see.

    Westbrook really frightens me though. Before he got injured in the playoff series last year he was lighting us up. When he gets the rebound in the open court there is no-one better in the league (Lance Stephenson has been holding down the fort in his absence so far this year, but Westbrook is better IMO), and neither Lin nor Beverley could really stay in front of him. Plus Westbrook with a grudge...yikes.

    ST

  • Texan Ensemble says 5 months ago

    I was hoping to see the other half of this on the Daily Thunder, but it isn't posted yet...I feel a bit of a arrogant/disdain attitude coming from Royce, in the same ilk that you would expect Westbrook to display when talking about Beverly.

    No matter what happens tonight, it is not indicative of what will happen in a playoff matchup. Why? Because losing both Sefolosha and Perkins is, in my opinion, a bigger loss than having Westbrook out. Why? Two reasons: first, it obviously thins out their rotation and second unit, you have old man Fischer and Thabeet getting 10-15 mins a game at min. Secondly, Sefolosha and Perkins are their defensive specialists; Sefolosha is a guy that can lock down Harden without worrying about being depleted on the offensive end, and as Royce says, Perkins, like all undersized "low center of gravity" big men it seems, gives Howard a lot of trouble.

    I am not predicting a Houston win, because it is in OKC, and I suspect that Durant wants to outdo Harden, but not in a mean spirited way, but in a brotherly/best friend kind of way. I do think there is a great chance that Westbrook loses this game though because he lets his emotions get to him in the form of him trying to do too much or getting to caught up in one upping Beverly.

    Cant wait for tonight!