The Oklahoma City Thunder look to bounce back from their first two playoff loses in round one of the Western Conference Playoffs against the Houston Rockets.
Game one was a blowout with the Rockets winning comfortably with a final score of 118-87. The MVP battle between Rockets guard James Harden and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook fell to the wayside as Houston was led by point guard Patrick Beverley who finished with 21 points on 8-13 shooting along with 10 rebounds, 3 assists and once again getting in Westbrook's head by playing to the whistle. Oklahoma City center Steven Adams responded with a big play of his own later on in the game:
The general hatred between both teams was not enough to fuel Oklahoma City to the win as they fell apart in the fourth quarter only scoring thirteen points to Houston's twenty-nine. Another big problem during game one was the poor shooting for Oklahoma City's backcourt. Russell Westbrook finished by shooting 6-23 and Victor Oladipo only connected on one shot in twelve attempts, including going 0-6 from beyond the arc.
Heading into game two the Thunder were looking to gain some footing in the series and head back to Oklahoma City with some momentum. Unfortunately, they found themselves in a 2-0 hole after the game by losing again in Houston with a final score of 115-111. While not a blowout like game one, game two was instead a meltdown for Oklahoma City. One of the biggest reasons was once again the backcourt's inability to score. Russell Westbrook alone took forty-one, yes forty-one shots in this game and missed all of his attempts in the fourth quarter. Victor Oladipo was able to connect on one of his seven three-point attempts but still only finished shooting 28.6% from the floor during game two. Another big problem for Oklahoma City was their bench production compared to Houston's bench. The only scorer off the bench for Oklahoma City to break double digits was Doug McDermott who scored eleven. The Thunder's defense was burned by two of the three players to come off of Houston's bench in Lou Williams and Eric Gordon. Williams finished with 21 points and Gordon finished with 22. With Enes Kanter unable to touch the floor with his lack of defensive ability, Thunder coach Billy Donovan may have to lean more on other bench players like McDermott to keep pace with Houston's bench.
As the series shifts back to Oklahoma City there are a few glaring issues that Oklahoma City has to face. Houston's defensive scheme is simple enough, with letting Westbrook take as many shots as he wants and make sure that he is not able to get his other teammates as involved as he wants as a playmaker. The forty-one attempts from Westbrook in game two were unacceptable and played a huge part in giving Houston the win and even more momentum when heading to Oklahoma City. Thunder coach Billy Donovan also needs to either find a creative way to get more production out of the bench unit by either pairing Enes Kanter with Steven Adams or finding a method that can help keep pace with Houston tandem of Lou Williams and Eric Gordon. If the Oklahoma City Thunder want to bounce back in this series they need to win a pivotal game three at home Friday evening. If not, the team will be heading on vacation early as Houston will advance to play the winner of the series between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.