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Thunder turn Game 1 against Rockets into a laugher

Apr 22, 2013, 12:54 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder Durant , Ibaka of Congo, and Perkins share a light moment on the bench late in the game against the Houston Rockets in Oklahoma City

The Thunder led 13-2 before the Rockets tied the game at 38, but Oklahoma City responded with a 14-1 run late in the first half. Houston hung around the fringe of striking distance before the Thunder made another 13-2 run midway through the second half.

The Rockets – and the Western Conference – are trying to catch the Thunder, and Oklahoma City’s 120-91 Game 1 win over the Rockets provided little evidence either can do it. Nobody has beaten a playoff team this badly in more than a month (the Warriors’ 108-78 win over the Rockets on March 17).

Higher seeds went 8-0 in the opening games of the 2013 playoffs, and chalk bodes well for the Thunder. They won the West last year, won more games than anyone in the conference this year and still might have their best basketball ahead of them.

Kevin Durant (24 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) and Russell Westbrook (19 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and two steals) were strong tonight, but Oklahoma City’s stars received plenty of support.

Serge Ibaka had 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.

Nick Collison made all four of his shots to go with five rebounds and four assists

Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson each made 3-pointers in the first half. After shooting near the arc proved to be little challenge, the Thunder resorted to half-court shots in the second half – and letting fans take them.

James Harden scored 20 points on 19 shots, similar production to the player the Rockets traded to acquire him. Kevin Martin had 16 points on 15 shots, but he was just a blip in the Thunder’s massive output.

Harden, on the other hand, was – by far – Houston’s leading scorer. A legitimate All-NBA first-team candidate (though, I’m partial to Westbrook in the guard spot next to Chris Paul), Harden must play better, but he also needs help. It wasn’t just his fault the Rockets’ offensive rating was 86.2, higher than only the Lakers in the playoffs’ opening games.

The same issues exist for Houston on the other end of the court. The Rockets aren’t a good defensive team, but they have a couple good defensive players.

Durant shot just 3-of-9 with Chandler Parsons on the court, compared to 4-of-6 with Parsons on the bench. Houston’s defensive rating dropped from 138.1 to 97.3 when Omer Asik played.

And really, that’s what this series boils down to.

The Rockets have impressive pieces. The Thunder have an impressive team.

  1. jaerba - Apr 22, 2013 at 1:39 AM

    Nice article. I like the comparisons with ORating and DRating.

    Also, does OKC have the best shooting fans in the country? This is getting pretty silly. Where’s Elias Sports Bureau with ‘Number of Halfcourt Shots Made by Fans in a Season’?

  2. dreamzilla - Apr 22, 2013 at 3:21 AM

    #ifearnobeard that greedy GREEN BREAD wanted to chase the money and bust up a well offensive machine because of a few million. they were off anywhere between 3 and 5 million total of the life of the contract. so as a thunder fan i say this to Mr Harden…have fun spending your $$$ while your team tries to contend for the title …all the while the team you betrayed is always contending for a title for the next 5 yrs ….#ifearnobeard

    • xLith - Apr 22, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      Really? Do you forget that not even 4-5 years ago your team was basically in the same boat as the Rockets are now? Actually the Rockets are worse off because they’ve been actually TOO competitive the last 3 or 4 years and should have tanked for lottery picks like OKC did.

      I understand you’re upset that he left your team but don’t forget it is a business and like already stated before, they payed Ibaka (which is a great decision). James was expendable to them with all of the talent they have.

      Have fun chasing the title. I really like the Thunder and it sucks my Rockets are playing them. However the future is bright for both teams and hopefully we can make a series out of it.

      TLDR: Don’t be mad bro.

  3. timb12 - Apr 22, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    You can’t put full responsibility on Harden. Ibaka just got payed and then they’re trying to pay him less. Plus they have him 24 hours to decide, and before that was up they traded him. Harden just made the best of a tough situation.

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