Apr 19, 2013, 5:01 PM EST
Oklahoma City: 60-22, first seed in East
Houston: 45-37, eighth seed in East
The Thunder won 2-1, though that doesn’t truly capture how much they dominated the series. Oklahoma City won by 22 and 30, and Houston won by just three.
OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)
Oklahoma City: offense 110.2 (2nd best in NBA), defense 99.2 (3rd in NBA)
Houston: offense 106.7 (6th in NBA), defense 103.5 (16th in NBA)
Differential: Thunder +11.0 (1st in NBA), Rockets +3.2 (9th in NBA)
THREE KEYS FOR OKLAHOMA CITY:
Avoid a Russell Westbrook meltdown: Westbrook had the best season of his career, taking a slight lead in the race to be the NBA’s best guard behind Chris Paul. He’s driven on the court by a burning passion, and that’s part of the reason he’s so successful. If he played calmer, he probably wouldn’t have the same impact. But that intensity can get the best of Westbrook at times. As long as he stays close enough to even-keeled, Oklahoma City should be fine. But if he melts down, that crack could give the Rockets an upset opportunity.
Make corner 3s: The Rockets’ perimeter defense is bad, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should have little trouble penetrating, but Oklahoma City doesn’t necessarily need to rely on that. The Rockets rank 29th in defensive corner 3-point percentage, making Houston the only team in the bottom seven of that category to make the playoffs. As a bonus, the Thunder have two of the league’s best corner 3-point shooters in Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin.
Don’t be afraid to turn the ball over: The Thunder have the NBA’s second-highest turnover percentage, but that’s due in large part to their offensive aggressiveness. They can handle a few more turnovers if it leads to extra high-efficiency scoring opportunities.
THREE KEYS FOR HOUSTON:
Limit Thunder other than Durant and Westbrook: Asking Durant and Westbrook beat you is probably asking to lose, but the Rockets probably aren’t going going to beat the Thunder without catching a major break. Despite outside pressure for Durant to get upset by Westbrook’s high usage, Durant has rejected the suggestion to show dissatisfaction. When the Thunder share the ball, that’s easy to do. But if Westbrook is taking all the shots that don’t go to Durant, maybe, just maybe Durant would see things differently.
Funnel Durant and Westbrook toward Omer Asik: In the spirit of the previous key, Asik is a physical player, and if he can protect the paint, great. If he can wear down Durant and Westbrook, maybe Houston gains an edge.
Don’t be afraid to turn the ball over: The Rockets have the NBA’s second-highest turnover percentage, but that’s due in large part to their offensive aggressiveness. They can handle a few more turnovers if it leads to extra high-efficiency scoring opportunities.
James Harden facing his former team is a fantastic storyline. Unfortunately the one-vs.-franchise matchup doesn’t necessarily make for a fantastic series.
Though the Rockets are extremely strong for a No. 8 seed – those who evaluate their rise from recent seasons only in terms of standings don’t fully appreciate how far this team has come – they’re not much of a match for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is better offensively and defensively, and it’s difficult to find a matchup that will turn this series in favor of the underdog.
Still, the individual storylines are great.
Did the Thunder err by trading James Harden? If they had to trade one, should they have dealt Serge Ibaka instead? Or did they completely miscalculate by keeping Westbrook rather than Harden?
Plenty of players will have something to prove this series.
Thunder in six
Nov 26, 2014, 3:55 PM EST
Don’t forget to be thankful for the Raptors, too.
Nov 26, 2014, 3:02 PM EST
Nov 26, 2014, 2:02 PM EST
Suns have three capable guards, and Thomas is the one coming off the bench.
Nov 26, 2014, 1:15 PM EST
Anthony was in severe pain after suffering back spasms on Monday against the Rockets.
Nov 26, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
Chandler didn’t fit the triangle but Rick Carlisle knew how to use him properly.
Nov 26, 2014, 11:45 AM EST
West has been out since the preseason with an ankle injury.
Nov 26, 2014, 11:05 AM EST
Clark had his best NBA season with L.A. back in 2013.
Nov 26, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Detroit has a fundamentally flawed roster.
Tom Thibodeau says Derrick Rose ‘didn’t re-injure himself’ after playing just 10 minutes in loss to Nuggets
Nov 26, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
Team originally said Rose left with hamstring tightness.
Nov 26, 2014, 9:10 AM EST
Lawson puts his elite ball handling on display.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Silver has said he wants the Bucks to stay in Milwaukee, but if a new arena isn’t built it’s going to get interesting.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
The Bucks are just fun to watch.
Nov 26, 2014, 2:00 AM EST
The Nuggets still won.
Nov 26, 2014, 1:15 AM EST
This rivalry is the best thing about the NBA this season.
Nov 26, 2014, 12:30 AM EST
The Lakers get a little flexibility to add a player.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:45 PM EST
Business as usual for Steph.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:50 PM EST
The latest setback for the former MVP.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:15 PM EST
Faried put the hammer down.
Nov 25, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
They are that bad because of their defense.
Nov 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EST
What is the deal with that shot?
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