Skip to content

PBT NBA Playoff Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets

Apr 19, 2013, 5:01 PM EST

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets Getty Images

SEASON RECORDS

Oklahoma City: 60-22, first seed in East

Houston: 45-37, eighth seed in East

SEASON SERIES

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.

KEY INJURIES

Oklahoma City: Kevin Martin and Kendrick Perkins haven’t played since April 11, but all signs point to both being fine for the playoffs.

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.

OUTLOOK

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.

PREDICTION:

Thunder in six

Latest Posts
  1. LeBron James reportedly asked Adam Silver for longer All-Star break, fewer back-to-backs

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:09 PM EST

    2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year Award Presentation - Arrivals Getty Images

    NBA Commissioner has delivered on All-Star Break. Back-to-backs next?

  2. Tyson Chandler, better than ever, thinking legacy

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:49 PM EST

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Will center stick with Mavericks this time?

  3. Mike Dunleavy is smooooth

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:11 PM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Sliding into your DMs like…

  4. DeMarcus Cousins wins.

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:33 AM EST

    Kings center waits five years, burns Clay Travis for tweet

  5. Kobe Bryant on if he returns next season: “Yeah, that’s the plan”

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:34 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Did anyone think he would get injured and say, “nah, I don’t want to fight through this” and walk away?

  6. Report: Magic close to firing Jacque Vaughn

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:37 AM EST

    Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Already facing scrutiny, Vaughn oversaw 15-point loss to Bucks last night

  7. One day after having surgery, Kobe Bryant came to see Pau Gasol

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:48 AM EST

    BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS Getty Images

    “I really appreciate him coming, I didn’t expect it at all.” —Pau Gasol

  8. Report: Magic haven’t ruled out firing Jacque Vaughn in-season

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:45 PM EST

    Jacque Vaughn Jacque Vaughn

    Management is displeased with their underperformance.

  9. Lakers pass out “Thanks Pau” shirts, have video tribute for return of Gasol

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:02 PM EST

    Pau shirt front

    “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

  10. Report: NBA passes rule raising the bar for team ownership

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    2015 Throne Boxing 2015 Throne Boxing

    The new rule is an attempt to curtail Jay Z-style figurehead owners.

  11. The three biggest All-Star snubs in each conference

    Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    DeMarcus Cousins DeMarcus Cousins

    Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver, DeMarcus Cousins and more.

  12. James Harden, three Hawks players lead list of NBA All-Star Game reserves

    Jan 29, 2015, 7:27 PM EST

    Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

    DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard were left off in the West.

Featured video

Who should be All-Star Game reserves?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. C. Anthony (7770)
  2. D. Howard (7330)
  3. R. Rubio (6936)
  4. K. Bryant (6862)
  5. K. Walker (6520)
  1. K. Martin (6359)
  2. H. Whiteside (6352)
  3. N. Batum (6207)
  4. K. Durant (6160)
  5. T. Jones (5940)