NBA Playoffs: Harden, Rockets exist OKC, answer one vital doubt in process

The Oklahoma City Thunder started Game 2 of their first-round array Wednesday looking like a best chronicle of themselves. Russell Westbrook pushed a round during each event and put vigour on a Houston Rockets’ defense, yet he didn’t have to force anything. The Rockets abandoned Andre Roberson, so a brazen cut to a basket and Steven Adams found him for an easy dunk. Taj Gibson punished Ryan Anderson in a post once, and when he missed on his second try, he recovered a miscarry and put it behind in. 

Behind active, enterprising invulnerability and a outrageous advantage on a descent glass, a Thunder built a 16-4 lead on a highway and confirmed a double-digit lead mid by a second quarter. This was accurately what Oklahoma City hoped for after a Game 1 disturbance on Sunday. 

The Thunder didn’t usually remove a array opener; they were outclassed in each way. The final measure was 118-87, and their biggest strength from a unchanging deteriorate didn’t even lift over. Westbrook scored 22 points on 23 shots, yet some-more importantly, Oklahoma City — a league’s No. 1 resilient and descent resilient organisation — was outrebounded 56-41, including 14-7 on a descent glass. 

It finished sense, then, that a Thunder would demeanour some-more like themselves when perplexing to shun Houston with a split. That many was easy adequate to expect. What maybe wasn’t as approaching was a Rockets’ response to all this. It was totalled and tough, dual adjectives maybe not compared adequate with a organisation many have come to perspective as a fun-gunning patrol yet championship substance. 

This diversion didn’t erase all those questions. They’ll have to do it opposite improved teams than OKC before we go putting them into a championship conversation. But this was a champion’s response. When a Rockets found themselves in an early hole, they didn’t panic. Led by James Harden‘s gorgeous playmaking and a large boost off a dais from Lou Williams, they scored 36 points in a second quarter. Then, after Westbrook roughly gathered a triple-double in a initial half, they clamped down.

Houston is in control of a first-round series.

Nobody confuses Houston for a defense-first team. This is one of a many fit offenses in NBA history, interjection mostly to a descent luminosity of Harden and manager Mike D’Antoni. The Rockets care deeply about their defense, though, and they trust that if they are merely flattering good on that end, they can kick anybody. 

Houston partner manager Jeff Bzdelik has been drilling a players on invulnerability all deteriorate long. After giving adult 68 points in a initial half, they accepted that they couldn’t let Oklahoma City brag them. The result: The Thunder scored 43 points in a second half on 14-for-50 (28 percent) shooting. Westbrook finished with a first 50-point triple-double in playoff history, yet he shot 17 for 43 to get his 51, including 4 for 18 in a fourth quarter.

“We usually attempted to keep a man in front of him, keep a palm up,” D’Antoni pronounced in his post-game press conference. “If he creates shots, he creates shots. If he had continued what he did in a initial half, afterwards we go home and we play a subsequent game. We usually stranded with a diversion plan, guys hung in there. Jeff Bzdelik did a good pursuit of job some defenses where we start switching, and afterwards we try to double him a integrate times, try to chuck him off balance. And afterwards it comes down to a heart and essence and a wish of a players. You know, they usually kind of showed their resilience that they showed all year.”

The Rockets went on a 9-0 run late in a third entertain as shortly as Westbrook went to a bench. In a fourth quarter, core Clint Capela contested a Victor Oladipo layup ideally during a edge and, a few security later, deserted Westbrook. Beverley hounded Westbrook like he always does, and a organisation invulnerability baited him into holding tough, contested jumpers over and over. D’Antoni credited Nene for his toughness on a inside, observant it’s spreading in a same approach that Beverley’s is. 

Harden had 36 points and 8 assists, yet those stats don’t tell many of a story. Since Houston was entrance behind for many of a game, a turnaround didn’t means them a oppulance of a gentle win. Even when Westbrook was blank shots, a Thunder were perplexing to produce a Rockets on a potion and be earthy with them. This was a arrange of competition where a Rockets indispensable to withstand that, hang to their guns and make plays on both ends. That resulted in a 10-0 run with Harden, Williams and Gordon all creation purchase shots. Anderson executed a text straight competition opposite Westbrook in that stretch, too. 

Again, if Houston does allege past Oklahoma City, a doubt will be either it can do this opposite a improved descent team. The Rockets won 55 games for a reason, though, and D’Antoni has come to design that they will do whatever they need to do to overcome adversity. The usually disproportion he sees is that they did it on a bigger theatre now.

“It didn’t warn me,” D’Antoni said. “They’ve finished it all year. And whatever these guys do collectively as a group, they don’t warn me. we usually suspicion it was a good game, a good gut-check kind of win. You have to have those in a playoffs. You can’t play good all a time. We missed early shots, we didn’t get discouraged, we usually hung in there.”

With a unfortunate Thunder perplexing to save their deteriorate on Friday, Houston will once again need to hang to a identity. That means sport for 3-pointers, layups and giveaway throws, of course, yet it also means holding a punch and staying steady.

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