Thunder (3-0, 1-0 road) vs. Rockets (0-3, 0-1 home)
View from the enemy: Red 94
A big opportunity here for the Thunder. Not just to sweep and move on to the next round, but for their future playoff life, this game is important. A win means a week of rest, of recovery, and practice. All things the Thunder desperately need.
The Thunder know what’s ahead of them down the line, but you have to close the series you’re in first. Being up 3-0 brings the agreement of history that this series is effectively over, but it feels way less over than if Russell Westbrook were still in uniform. The Thunder feel vulnerable, like they could potentially be bitten.
You have to take care of the present, and the Rockets remain a challenge. They’re prideful and tough, and not a team that will go down easily. James Harden wants nothing less than to be swept out of the first round by his old team. He has yet to really play well in this series, and could be saving a huge performance for tonight.
Three Big Things
1. KD. He’s got to be awesome again, plain and simple. I agree with most everyone in that Durant needs to play point forward for a lot of the game, but I don’t think you can ignore Reggie Jackson’s ability here as a creator. He can’t just be a spot-up shooter in your offense. Otherwise, he might as well be sitting. But Durant has to carry the burden of OKC’s offense. If he can produce another big performance, the Thunder will likely win.
2. Defend. We’ve all been locked in on what the Thunder have to do to score, but they also have to defend. Because you can get away with stale offense or over-reliance on KD as long as you’re not letting the Rockets score at will. The Thunder have really done a solid job defending the 3 in the series, and have limited their transition game. But that just means they might be due to break out at any minute.
3. Others. The Thunder need more from Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha. Serge Ibaka was good, but he can do better than 17 points. Martin and Sefolosha can’t go a combined 4-18 again. The Thunder are really incredibly fortunate they won with that. Martin didn’t score in the second half of Game 3. That can’t happen. It’s not that the two were frozen out. It’s that they didn’t make shots.
Tip at 8:30 CT. Still Go Russ.