Apr 19, 2013, 5:01 PM EDT
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
Oct 2, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
After 10 years in the league, how much change do we really expect?
Oct 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Gasol chose the polar vortex over the beach.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dominated last season and return for more
Oct 1, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Kobe takes championship-or-bust mentality
Oct 1, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
George wants to re-join the Pacers for the playoffs
Oct 1, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Thunder forward says he doesn’t (unless he’s joking like Kevin Martin)
Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Get fouled on a missed 2-pointer – one free throw worth two points
Get fouled on a missed 3-pointer – one free throw worth three points
Oct 1, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
OK, what did I get wrong?
Oct 1, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT
Two young players trying to prove to new coaches they deserved minutes. This is a real setback for both.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
The show is on Disney XD. I suppose there are worse things your child could watch.
Man sues Madison Square Garden saying he was ejected from Knicks game for saying “Carmelo, you stink”
Oct 1, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
A Madison Square Garden spokesman called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
Oct 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Dirk loves him some Hoff.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Thing is, Rodman fit the triangle and what Jackson wants to do with a team. Smith…. not so much.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT
Monroe had a busy offseason in terms of appearances in the NBA’s news cycle.
Oct 1, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT
LeBron is taking on a leadership role early in his second stint in Cleveland.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT
Broken hand is supposed to sideline Rondo for 6-8 weeks.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
I list my personal picks for top five backcourts.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
Second round pick foregoing additional guaranteed dollars in order to bet on himself.
Oct 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT
Reminder not to believe everything you read, especially if it’s attributed to ‘a source.’
Oct 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Cousins was tied for the league lead with 16 last season.
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