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Rockets play much better, but Thunder escape with the win for a 2-0 series lead

Apr 24, 2013, 11:05 PM EDT

Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverly drives against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City.

After dropping Game 1 of their first round playoff series to the top seeded Thunder by 29 points, there weren’t many who believed the Rockets would be able to compete for more than short stretches the rest of the series.

But thanks to some key adjustments, Houston gave the Thunder all they could handle in Game 2, and erased all of a 15-point fourth quarter deficit before ultimately falling 105-102.

Rockets head coach Kevin McHale knew he had to match the Thunder’s speed after the way the first game unfolded, so he went small and inserted first year reserve point guard Patrick Beverley into the starting lineup in place of his usual starting big man, Greg Smith.

The move worked to perfection. Not only did Beverley produce by contributing 16 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists in 41 minutes, but he got under the skin of Russell Westbrook at times when battling him defensively. Two early fouls on Westbrook had him sitting on the bench after playing less than six first quarter minutes, but Kevin Durant took over without issue as he poured in 15 points in the game’s first 12 minutes.

Westbrook came back with a vengeance in the second, and put in one of those electric stretches he’s become known for. Westbrook had 11 in the period in under seven and a half minutes.

While Durant and Westbrook were doing their collective thing, Harden was doing his for the Rockets. He barreled into the paint on seemingly every possession, and got to the free throw line for 20 attempts. Harden finished with a game high 36 points (albeit on just 9-of-24 shooting), to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists.

This was an exciting game that stayed tight in the first half, and then gave way to wild swings by both teams in the second.

Oklahoma City ran its lead to 11 midway through the third period, once Beverley headed to the bench after picking up his fourth foul. Jeremy Lin was unavailable in the second half due to a shoulder contusion, so Aaron Brooks got the call in the third when Beverley was forced to sit out.

The Thunder briefly took control to start the fourth thanks to a couple of threes from Kevin Martin and one from Westbrook that saw the lead reach 15 points with under nine and a half minutes remaining. The Rockets then went to a zone defense, and everything changed.

Houston went on a monster of a run while the Thunder struggled to deal with the zone by taking too many long twos and threes, instead of moving the ball and trying to attack the center of it. The Rockets put together a 21-2 stretch, capped off by a three-pointer from Carlos Delfino that gave them a four-point lead with 3:37 remaining.

But Durant responded. He blocked Chandler Parsons inside, then drained a three a couple of possessions later that put the Thunder back ahead, before driving to draw the defense and making a great kick-out pass to Thabo Sefolosha, who drained the open three that sealed it for OKC.

The Rockets got just about everything they wanted in this one statistically, except for one glaring omission. Houston killed the Thunder on the glass, outrebounding them 57-40. Thy won the battle of points in the paint with a 50-30 advantage, and outscored them 27-15 in second chance points.

But the Rockets were a dreadful 10-35 from three-point distance, good for just 28.6 percent. They got plenty of open looks, but simply couldn’t knock them down, and it’s a shame considering that the team was second in the league behind only the Knicks in three-pointers made per game, and finished eighth in the league in three-point shooting percentage.

Houston may be able to carry some momentum with them from this one back home for Games 3 and 4, and now it will be Thunder head coach Scott Brooks’ turn to make the adjustments. The Thunder won’t likely struggle as much against the zone again (they were plenty successful against it at times during the regular season), and they’ll have to find a way to close better on the Rockets shooters, while not allowing Harden to get into the paint so easily where he draws the bulk of the fouls that give him those free throw opportunities.

The status of Jeremy Lin moving forward will obviously be a concern for the Rockets, and will have a big impact on whether or not they can put up a fight similar to the one we saw in Game 2 once the series shifts to Houston.

  1. rickyspanish - Apr 24, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    Jeremy Lin is awful. I can’t believe a front office so in tune with metrics would pay this guy that much money.

  2. badintent - Apr 25, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    Ball don’t Lie

  3. thekingdave - Apr 25, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Uh it’s pretty obvious. They want to sell tickets since we’re a fringe playoff team anyways, then dump him in year three when his salary balloons, becoming a valuable trade chip.

  4. thundersandpackers - Apr 25, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    I am Asian and got to admit that I had Linsanity too. I bought both jerseys and now sadden that I got ripped off. Lin sucks and is overpaid. Us asians are not made to play sports but become doctors and find cures for diseases.

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 25, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      Two words: Sumo Wrestlers!

    • badintent - Apr 25, 2013 at 11:46 PM

      Lin is overpaid but you could say that about most players in the NBA. If he had stayed in NY, he would have paid for himself in jersey sales.. I think you have to give him another full season to make an accurate assement on his play. His biggest problem is turnovers,even during Linsanity , he was turning the ball over at a high rate. He has small hands, so loses the ball just dribbling more than on bad passes.And he needs a girfriend.Harvard girls are all gold diggers. We hope LIn will find his virgin finance soon.For his sake.

  5. kanemoney - Apr 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Plenty of Asians won gold at every recent Olympics. Many of the best baseball players in the world are Asian. Asians can ball. Lin is Lin – talk about him as a person, not a race.

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