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Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Houston Rockets 94 – School’s out for Summer

It sounded LOUD in the Toyota Center. Looked great with everyone dressed in red. The crowd was all set to will their team to victory, and for a long time the Rockets looked like they were capable of obliging them. But unfortunately the team was unable to pull it off and the Thunder escaped from Houston with the win.

I can’t feel too bummed about it, because frankly at 3-0 down it looked like it was going to be a sweep. Harden et al. have shown so much potential over the course of this series that it’s difficult not to feel incredibly optimistic about what the future holds. And yet, for large parts of this game it felt like it was there for the taking before the Thunder pulled away in the final frame. The Rockets will have to take solace from pushing the #1 seed so far, and look to come back stronger in the Autumn.

I wondered whether the Thunder would be able to exploit Ibaka’s size advantage on Harden any better in this game than they have in previous outings. It looked ominous when Ibaka posted up on the first possession and sunk a short jumper. But after that they never really came back to it. Ibaka is not known for his post game, but Scott Brooks did say after the last game that the gameplan was to try to exploit that mismatch a bit, so I’m surprised they didn’t go to it a little more.

With the ultra-spread floor, Asik had a lot of open space to roll through. He was getting to the rim hard for some good looks around the basket. He and Brooks still need to develop a bit more chemistry – Brooks tried to force some difficult bounce passes, and we know by now that that’s not Omer’s cup of tea. However, as the first half went on you could see him picking up confidence in his ability to catch the ball on the move and the effectiveness of the play improved accordingly. The issue was that apart from that the there was very little on. The Rockets were not able to penetrate often enough to provide their three point shooters with many open looks (though to their credit, both Parsons and Garcia were still able to put in a few three balls). It wasn’t until late in the half that Harden was able to break loose and combine his threat from behind the arc with his driving game. Prior to that point the Thunder had been able to take advantage of the Rockets’ dry spell to build up a lead of as many as 11 before being pegged back to 58-54 at the half.

Lin checked in to the game late in the first when Beverley had to go to the bench with two fouls. It was clear that he was not completely healthy and unfortunately that translated into how he was used on the court. If Lin’s going to be out there, he needs to be handling the ball with regularity. But the Rockets ran most of the play through Harden and Brooks, relegating Lin to a spot-up floor spacer. This predictably did not work very well as it took away pretty much all of Lin’s strengths – there was very little in the way of a driving game, and the ball wasn’t in his hands enough for him to use his passing skills either.

It was too much to expect Martin to keep missing his outside shots. In the second quarter he became the focal point of the offense while Durant was on the bench and helped drive the Thunder back into the league. The Thunder appeared to have added a few wrinkles to their offense to help him get open as he was regularly able to get the slivers of space he needs to get off his quick-release shot. 21 points in the first half and it felt like he was more than making up for his mediocrity in game 5.

We also saw a lot more of Collison in this game (he was the player that Thunder fans were clamouring for Scott Brooks to play more), and he was a catalyst for a lot of the good things OKC did in the second quarter. Good rotations filled the lane and made it harder for the Rockets to execute their driving game, great work on the offensive glass got his team several more possessions and he also did some facilitating from the high post on the offensive end (there was one particularly Princeton-y play where Martin was able to get free on a back-cut – brought back memories of Adelman’s offense).

Parsons came out of the gate hot in the third quarter, draining three threes and energizing the crowd. Suddenly the tables turned and it was the Thunder who were struggling to generate any offense to speak of. A spot of zone made it difficult for Durant to score by himself, and it wasn’t until Reggie Jackson stepped up that the Thunder had anyone else to shoulder the scoring load. But with that zone no longer being a surprise tactic, eventually OKC figured it out and were able to go on a run. Closing out the quarter well, they were able to take a 78-77 lead into the final frame.

Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in the final frame. Durant started to read the extra defenders coming his way and found the open man. When that open man was Fisher, he buried his outside shots. In combination with some surprisingly solid defense on Harden, I have to (begrudgingly) say that he showed his value beyond the ‘veteran leadership’ that is widely noted as his only redeeming quality. Harden, perhaps running low on energy due to his illness, was bitten by the turnover bug again. Two costly live ball turnovers converted into easy run-outs blew open the game at stages where it was critical that the Rockets get a score. The lead ballooned to 15 with 3:00 left and the game was over, and with it the series.

Random Stuff:

  • Garcia and Perkins had a minor shoving match early on and a few other players were dragged in to a war of words. In the end, the refs assessed things almost exactly even – double technicals and a personal foul on Garcia on the play, but then they immediately called an offensive foul on Perkins before the ball was inbounded. That confrontation set the tone for the rest of the game, which had plenty more incidents to add spice to proceedings. Like people who’ve been living together for too long, it’s clear that after 6 games against each other the two teams are starting to get annoyed with each other. There was a further set of double technicals handed out to Durant and Asik (very out of character for him!) for jawing at each other. Durant kneed Parsons in the unmentionables at one point. As the first half buzzer ended, Parsons stepped in to take a charge on Durant that was seen as a no-call by the referee, and it looked as though Parsons was close to getting T’ed up as well.
  • Harden continued to exhibit his mastery of the two-for-one at the end of the first half, pulling up for a three with 34 seconds remaining. The late scoring bursts the Rockets are able to pull off at the end of quarters because of this is really useful – suddenly instead of being down ten they’re down 5, or the lead gets stretched when the game is tight.
  • In the third quarter, Harden had a humourous play. He felt Ibaka had been in the lane for more than three seconds, so he started jumping up and down and informing the referees. As soon as Ibaka stepped out of the key, Harden blew by his defender for a layup.

 

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  • Paradise says 1 YEAR ago

    The fact that we got to this point is just fantastic. What a success! We lost, but that's not the important thing. To have pushed OKC to the brink (even though we didn't get to game 7) is just amazing. Great season, a couple of offseason moves can really push us into not necessarily contenders for next year. But into contention a couple of years down the road. CAN'T WAIT!

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago
    Rockets' season was over, reaching playoffs and being competitive against the top seed was a surprised success for young and inexperience team. Before season started, GM Morey begun rebuilding project by trading away all but two players: Parsons and Smith. And Morey started aquring valued assets throughout the season.Among new aquisitons, Harden is a frahchise calibre player and he is sure to remain as a Rockets for many years. Two other high profile signings, Lin and Aisk, played big part in Rockets success this year. But except Harden, any other players on current roster could be traded away before start of next season.
    Morey accumulatd good valued players but it was very clear that he wasn't building a team. Now he has a chance to build a team around Harden. Now decision must be made on who to retain and who to let it go. Parsons might be sure to stay but he could be a trade chip to bring a right superstar. But biggest headach is Lin. He is a good player, great teammate, and marketing asset. But he doesn't co-exist well with Harden. They could improve chemistry on court but very unlikely the will maximize each other. Using Lin as a sixth man is an option but sitting him late in fourth quarter is expensive. Morey is likely to keep Lin unless he is part of a trade to bring star/superstar PF or C. Asik is more likely to stay than Lin. Only Howard could kick Asik out of Houston. All others on roster are either cheap or replaceable.
    Rockets will definitely pusue super free agents like Howard and Paul. Paul was alpha male on his team for a long time and he is unlikely to yield that to Harden. He may want team to build around him than he was second options to Harden. Howard already was a sidekike to Kobe and he is a front court player, so it is easier to co-exist with Harden. Chances are slim for either of them coming. Why? Paul can ask any team to build around him. Howard doesn't seem to care much about trophy and he can get 30 millions more staying in LA and would be alpha male in a year.
    Least like to change in Rockets land is coaching. But who knows what will happen next and anything is possible. High profile coaches also attract big name players. Good coaching and ability to maximize players potentials is key to playoffs success.
    Nobody know what Morey would do. Even Morey doesn't know what he would do. Let's wait, speculate, and enjoy.
  • beer_chris says 1 YEAR ago

    When we got to our seats at TC my wife saw Delfino in a boot and street clothes, turned to me and said 'We're in trouble.' It was clear, esp in the 3rd and early 4th, that McHale was struggling to find a productive second line, and Brooks was just waiting around every corner with another weapon.

    I don't know what was more shocking about the loss:
    1) How evenly matched the Rox/Thunder really are with Westbrook, um, neutralized
    2) That the Rox really got beat by Martin, Collison and Fisher
    3) What kind of horned beast Fisher has made a deal with to play such strong D in key stretches

    I left the arena (after the buzzer, thanks) disliking Fisher more because he forced me to respect his 'D'. His shutdown performanc - even on an obviously sick Harden - was impressive. If he starts throwing fireballs and summoning the undead I wouldn't be surprised.

    In any case, on to the offseason. Thanks to you for this blog. My go-to source for thoughtful Rox conversation. Not even Derek Fisher can stop that.
  • PKM says 1 YEAR ago

    At the end of the day, our bench with an injured Lin and no Delfino was just too much of a problem for the Houston starters to handle - when Fisher ( may he live in interesting times) scores as many points as your bench total, then well, yeah.

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Apologies for any errors in that - it's 5:30 AM here and I was struggling to keep myself awake during halftime...

    ST

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Houston Rockets 94 - School's out for Summer
    By: Rob Dover

    It sounded LOUD in the Toyota Center. Looked great with everyone dressed in red. The crowd was all set to will their team to victory, and for a long time the Rockets looked like they were capable of obliging them. But unfortunately the team was unable to pull it off and the Thunder escaped from Houston with the win.

    I can't feel too bummed about it, because frankly at 3-0 down it looked like it was going to be a sweep. Harden et al. have shown so much potential over the course of this series that it's difficult not to feel incredibly optimistic about what the future holds. And yet, for large parts of this game it felt like it was there for the taking before the Thunder pulled away in the final frame. The Rockets will have to take solace from pushing the #1 seed so far, and look to come back stronger in the Autumn.

    I wondered whether the Thunder would be able to exploit Ibaka's size advantage on Harden any better in this game than they have in previous outings. It looked ominous when Ibaka posted up on the first possession and sunk a short jumper. But after that they never really came back to it. Ibaka is not known for his post game, but Scott Brooks did say after the last game that the gameplan was to try to exploit that mismatch a bit, so I'm surprised they didn't go to it a little more.

    With the ultra-spread floor, Asik had a lot of open space to roll through. He was getting to the rim hard for some good looks around the basket. He and Brooks still need to develop a bit more chemistry - Brooks tried to force some difficult bounce passes, and we know by now that that's not Omer's cup of tea. However, as the first half went on you could see him picking up confidence in his ability to catch the ball on the move and the effectiveness of the play improved accordingly. The issue was that apart from that the there was very little on. The Rockets were not able to penetrate often enough to provide their three point shooters with many open looks (though to their credit, both Parsons and Garcia were still able to put in a few three balls). It wasn't until late in the half that Harden was able to break loose and combine his threat from behind the arc with his driving game. Prior to that point the Thunder had been able to take advantage of the Rockets' dry spell to build up a lead of as many as 11 before being pegged back to 58-54 at the half.

    Lin checked in to the game late in the first when Beverley had to go to the bench with two fouls. It was clear that he was not completely healthy and unfortunately that translated into how he was used on the court. If Lin's going to be out there, he needs to be handling the ball with regularity. But the Rockets ran most of the play through Harden and Brooks, relegating Lin to a spot-up floor spacer. This predictably did not work very well as it took away pretty much all of Lin's strengths - there was very little in the way of a driving game, and the ball wasn't in his hands enough for him to use his passing skills either.

    It was too much to expect Martin to keep missing his outside shots. In the second quarter he became the focal point of the offense while Durant was on the bench and helped drive the Thunder back into the league. The Thunder appeared to have added a few wrinkles to their offense to help him get open as he was regularly able to get the slivers of space he needs to get off his quick-release shot. 21 points in the first half and it felt like he was more than making up for his mediocrity in game 5.

    We also saw a lot more of Collison in this game (he was the player that Thunder fans were clamouring for Scott Brooks to play more), and he was a catalyst for a lot of the good things OKC did in the second quarter. Good rotations filled the lane and made it harder for the Rockets to execute their driving game, great work on the offensive glass got his team several more possessions and he also did some facilitating from the high post on the offensive end (there was one particularly Princeton-y play where Martin was able to get free on a back-cut - brought back memories of Adelman's offense).

    Parsons came out of the gate hot in the third quarter, draining three threes and energizing the crowd. Suddenly the tables turned and it was the Thunder who were struggling to generate any offense to speak of. A spot of zone made it difficult for Durant to score by himself, and it wasn't until Reggie Jackson stepped up that the Thunder had anyone else to shoulder the scoring load. But with that zone no longer being a surprise tactic, eventually OKC figured it out and were able to go on a run. Closing out the quarter well, they were able to take a 78-77 lead into the final frame.

    Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in the final frame. Durant started to read the extra defenders coming his way and found the open man. When that open man was Fisher, he buried his outside shots. In combination with some surprisingly solid defense on Harden, I have to (begrudgingly) say that he showed his value beyond the 'veteran leadership' that is widely noted as his only redeeming quality. Harden, perhaps running low on energy due to his illness, was bitten by the turnover bug again. Two costly live ball turnovers converted into easy run-outs blew open the game at stages where it was critical that the Rockets get a score. The lead ballooned to 15 with 3:00 left and the game was over, and with it the series.

    Random Stuff:

    • Garcia and Perkins had a minor shoving match early on and a few other players were dragged in to a war of words. In the end, the refs assessed things almost exactly even - double technicals and a personal foul on Garcia on the play, but then they immediately called an offensive foul on Perkins before the ball was inbounded. That confrontation set the tone for the rest of the game, which had plenty more incidents to add spice to proceedings. Like people who've been living together for too long, it's clear that after 6 games against each other the two teams are starting to get annoyed with each other. There was a further set of double technicals handed out to Durant and Asik (very out of character for him!) for jawing at each other. Durant kneed Parsons in the unmentionables at one point. As the first half buzzer ended, Parsons stepped in to take a charge on Durant that was seen as a no-call by the referee, and it looked as though Parsons was close to getting T'ed up as well.

    • Harden continued to exhibit his mastery of the two-for-one at the end of the first half, pulling up for a three with 34 seconds remaining. The late scoring bursts the Rockets are able to pull off at the end of quarters because of this is really useful - suddenly instead of being down ten they're down 5, or the lead gets stretched when the game is tight.

    • In the third quarter, Harden had a humourous play. He felt Ibaka had been in the lane for more than three seconds, so he started jumping up and down and informing the referees. As soon as Ibaka stepped out of the key, Harden blew by his defender for a layup.














  • HoopsReportCard says 1 YEAR ago

    I just want to say one thing to the people hating on Lin:

    Post All-Star break per 36:
    17.2 ppg
    6.8 ast
    45% fg
    37.5% 3pt

    If he is still hurt I understand not playing him, but if he looks good (looked okay while shooting around today via Jason Friedman) I say lets give him some minutes off the bench. He's a better passer and better defender than Aaron Brooks. And keep in mind Delfino is injured (fractured foot requires surgery) so we might need the minutes Lin can give us.

    are you watching how Lin gets inserted and the Rockets lose the lead??? No one is hating on Lin, but even the Thunder have confidence when Jeremy Lin is on the floor. Reggie Jackson's eyes lit up. Everyone feels like they can go right by him. Im not saying they definitely can, but its a whole different game offensively and defensively.

    No one is hating on him, but the truth is in a training camp with Lin, Beverly and Brooks, Jeremy lin would be the 3rd point guard. He couldnt beat either of those guys for the starting role. He wouldnt even be 2nd. Not hate, truth.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I just want to say one thing to the people hating on Lin:

    Post All-Star break per 36:
    17.2 ppg
    6.8 ast
    45% fg
    37.5% 3pt

    If he is still hurt I understand not playing him, but if he looks good (looked okay while shooting around today via Jason Friedman) I say lets give him some minutes off the bench. He's a better passer and better defender than Aaron Brooks. And keep in mind Delfino is injured (fractured foot requires surgery) so we might need the minutes Lin can give us.

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago


    if lin has a bad game and the rockets happen to lose, he's never going to hear the end of it.


    I disagree especially since Lin is still hurt and we are an 8 seed about to take a 1 seed to 7 games.
  • miketheodio says 1 YEAR ago

    if lin has a bad game and the rockets happen to lose, he's never going to hear the end of it.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    No matter what OKC does, it is all up to Garcia and Brooks.

    We had D-Mo moment, and then Smith, now Garcia (and maybe Brooks too).

    They need staying power. We don't know how consistent they would be.

  • wph342711 says 1 YEAR ago

    awesome, thanks, appreciate it!

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Coming to Houston and catching the game wph, that's pretty cool. If you are coming to Houston I suggest you get a rental car. If you do not get a car I would suggest staying downtown. All kinds of hotels to choose from in varying price ranges but if you wanted to stay at a cool spot I would suggest Icon. Also consider the Hilton and the Holiday Inn as they are both about a block away or less from Toyota Center.
  • wph342711 says 1 YEAR ago

    flying out from LA to Houston for a surgical strike to go to the game (i'll be the guy in the olajuwon tshirt, sitting by himself). never been to houston as a tourist - any tips on where to stay, preferably by TC?

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Bold prediction: Thunder stop playing Perkins, and opt for playing Collison BIG minutes instead and get the win.

    Perkins is easily one of the worst players in the league imo (it's not a coincidence his +/- for the past two games is -30), and Collison is easily one of the most underrated (don't judge him by his numbers, he's a very smart player who takes a ton of charges and does everything right). As much as I would like to be wrong, I would be shocked if Scott Brooks doesn't wake up to his senses about the need to play Collison alot more.

    Hopefully Harden stays hot, I'm a little bit nervous about his shot selection lately and his late game decision making. Also, we need Brooks to punish Fisher more. As old as Fisher is, I would much rather force Brooks to play Jackson over Fisher because Jackson is making a ton of little rookie mistakes and doesn't really do a good job of getting the ball to Durant.

  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    ive had an out-of-town trip planned for about 8 weeks now, leaving tomorrow returning sunday. going to do everything within my power to catch game 6. nba playoffs didnt even creep into my thought process when i was deciding whether or not to go. kinda pissed now, but as long as i can watch the game tomorrow, all will be good. i shouldnt have a problem on sunday (*knocks on wood*).

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    OK, time for bold predictions...

    OKC counters Houston by taking Perkins out and replacing him with SF Ronnie Brewer. He can't score much, but his athleticism should help on defense. On offense, I expect a healthy dose of Durant/Ibaka pick n rolls.

    I don't expect Houston to make any changes in the first half since right now we're clicking. If OKC's adjustments are working and they are going small I think we could see more Greg Smith, or even Terrence Jones in the second half. I think McHale will put them in to attack the glass and finish strong when they get the ball near the rim.

    It's gonna be fun!

  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    just hope the rockets dont get over confident. hope mchale can keep them grounded and focused.

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago Rockets win. Send the series back to OKC.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Well, if anyone knows about nerves getting the best of them....

  • Freebird says 1 YEAR ago

    Well, I know the ride will end sometime, but I hope it ain't because of this fool:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9235586/2013-nba-playoffs-royce-white-taunts-kevin-durant-oklahoma-city-thunder

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    I'll echo Drew in saying that it's great to watch this young team excede expectations. Goes to show that you don't have to be competing for a championship to consider a season a success.

    ST

  • Drew in Abilene says 1 YEAR ago

    I can't put into words how happy I am just to be in this position. I am so very grateful for each game that our guys get to play, and especially for the close ones in games 2-5. I can hardly believe that we've pushed them to six games, and have a chance to win at home and get to a game 7. This is so valuable for our team's growth and visibility for free agents.

    Am I hopeful for Friday? Of course I am. I think we definitely have a shot to win. But at this point, I just can't express how amazing this series has been for me. With T-Mac and Yao, I was always hoping for so much that a first of second round loss was a disappointment. For the first time in my Rockets FanLife, each time they step on the floor, the overwhelming feeling is hope instead of stressed expectations. I'll have more expectations in the future, but on Friday, my heart will be mostly full of hope for the future. Great place to be.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago It is all house money at this point. Whatever the outcome of game 6 it will be some type of learning experience whether they come out over confident and get blown out or they come out focused and make it competitive. I have no expectations of anything more.

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