Thunder Drop Game 5, Season Ends in Houston

Thunder Drop Game 5, Season Ends in Houston

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Houston Rockets 105-99 on Tuesday night, and Houston wins the first round series 4-1. It’s over. 

In a way, Russell Westbrook’s regular season heroics gave us an irrational belief that OKC could make some playoff noise. In reality, the Rockets were most definitely better. The Thunder, despite having the likely NBA MVP, had too many glaring holes that need to be fixed and filled. Game 5 told the same story we’ve been told all season.

The first half was a bit strange. No one was particularly playing well, and Westbrook was surprisingly not in desperation mode. I think we all expected “Scorched Earth” Russ to start the game. He, of course, decided to trust his teammates and deferred often.

Facing a halftime deficit, the Thunder started the third quarter with maybe their worst body language of the series. OKC looked ready to head home and start the offseason. But then Russ happened. As if a switch was flipped, 8 straight Westbrook points sparked a run by the Thunder. Momentum grew, and OKC took a one-point lead into the final frame.

But as the story goes, Westbrook would start the fourth on the bench, and remained there until the 9:15 mark. The result of that rest? Houston outscored the Thunder 14-4. 

Westbrook would check-in with the Thunder down by 5, a hole that a fresh, well-rested Brodie could easily climb out of. What we got was a worn-out Westbrook settling for too many three-pointers (He would take 18 in the game.) It became obvious as the fourth quarter wore on that late-game heroics weren’t happening in Game 5. Russ was on empty.

And so as Westbrook went, the Thunder went. They fell short tonight and it was no less frustrating than the other three times they lost in the series. While it’s easy to throw blame around, it’s simply obvious that OKC’s roster just isn’t built to win right now.

That’s not me pointing a finger at Sam Presti. If I’m pointing anywhere, it’s to a calendar — directly at July 4, 2016. What happened that day still has aftershocks affecting this team now. You lose a player of that caliber and you’re likely not going to be successful the next season. Such is life, and Westbrook & Co. head home to begin an offseason of further rebuilding.

Notes: 

  • With Oladipo collecting two early fouls, Alex Abrines subbed-in early. It was his chance to shine!
  • He immediately saw four wide-open looks. He missed three of them.
  • Oladipo would start the second quarter at point guard. It wasn’t as great as we hoped.
  • Victor was really bad tonight. I LOVED Game 3 Vic, but Oladipo on the road was shook — shooting 9/43 in Houston during the series.
  • I do love Enes Kanter:

  • Kanter played 3 minutes, shot 0-2, and fouled twice. I wish Big Turkey had a chance to play with Russ more.. But yeah.. that was ugly.
  • Patrick Beverley had 5 offensive rebounds tonight. Just whatever.
  • Rockets Owner Les Alexander approached a referee right before halftime. Weird moment. The NBA is going to look into it, per Royce.

  • Beverley and Russ had a little back and forth. It was fantastic simply because of Westbrook’s face during the whole thing:

  • Billy Donovan subbed Andre Roberson in-and-out to combat the Hack-a-Dre strategy. Roberson would shoot only 4 FT’s. He made one of them and went 3/21 in the series. Woof.
  • Roberson, who had been scoring well in the series, scored 3 points on 1/7 shooting. All good things must come to an end.
  • Jerami Grant was 4/8 for 11 points and a -24 in the +/-.
  • Between Grant, Abrines, and McDermott, the Thunder have something to work with. 
  • Russell Westbrook finished with 47 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. Because of course. 

On to the offseason for the Thunder. There is much work to be done before next season rolls around, and hopefully Sam Presti can work his magic to build a better-suited team around Westbrook. We’ll see.