Rockets (0-1, 0-1 road) vs. Thunder (1-0, 1-0 home
View from the enemy: Red 94
Let me repeat the thing I’ve been saying over and over the past two days: Game 1 is over, and it didn’t count for extra. Lose Game 2, and things change quickly. Because that’s the mission of a road team in the first two: just win one. That’s it. Game 1 was a dud for the Rockets, but it can all be undone with a good Game 1. We just saw it with the Nets and Bulls, and to a lesser extent, with the Warriors and Nuggets.
The Rockets have said all the right things heading into this one about adjustments and adapting to playoff basketball and experience. But the question is really about their personnel. Do they have it? Can they keep up with OKC? My take on the series hasn’t changed, and if anything, was only reinforced with Game 1: Unless James Harden is almost perfect, the Rockets don’t have a chance.
Kevin McHale knows this. Harden knows this, too. So the Rockets will do everything to free him up and get him involved early. The Thunder stalled out Houston’s offense by switching and baiting. The Rockets are likely to come out by trying to run more, as well as moving the ball with quick drive, pass, pass, drive, pass combinations. Get OKC moving, attack the switcher and then kick to do it all over again.
Don’t think otherwise: The Rockets can win the game. Unless the Thunder show up. Then no matter how well Harden and the Rockets play, they just don’t have enough.
Three Big Things
1. Transition. It was a focus on Game 1 and it will remain so until the series is over. The Rockets don’t run like the Nuggets in that they look to sprint to the rim. It’s more of breaking to catch the defense in poor matchups and to attack early in the shot clock. Where the Rockets struggle is from 12-1 seconds left in the shot clock. In fact, check this stat: The Rockets averaged 38.7 points per game in the first 10 seconds of the clock, 23.5 after 11-15 seconds and just 24.6 between 16-24. Forty-three percent of their offense comes from shooting within the first 10 seconds and their eFG% drops significantly the further you go in to the 24. Make Houston run offense.
2. Offensive rebounding. The Rockets really only have one good big in Omer Asik. And Serge Ibaka took advantage of that all over in Game 1. Greg Smith is not a great rebounder, at least against the size, strength and athleticism of Ibaka. Plus, because of Ibaka’s ability inside on the boards, the Rockets seem to be afraid to go with smallball lineups. Ibaka needs to pound them again in there and force McHale’s hand to stay big. Because they REALLY can’t score, or guard, when they have another big with Asik.
3. Play loose. The Thunder did a great job of remaining entirely in the flow of the game even with Houston going on a run to tie the game 40-40 in the second quarter. They stayed relaxed and confident, and just wore the Rockets down. The bench has to hang in tough and there can’t be big lapses. But if OKC plays for 48 minutes, this could be another cruise to the finish.
Tip at 6:00 CT. Go Game 2.