Oklahoma City Thunder : 103 : : Houston Rockets : 105 — April 27, 2013 (GAME 4)
Houston finally pulled out a win against OKC and of course it came on a night they shot better than 44% (12-of-27) from three. That’s been their biggest strength all season and though it’s gotten progressively better in every game in the series thus far, it’s still be pretty piss-poor recently (22%, 28% and 32% on at least 35 attempts each time). That’s a lot of points they’ve failed to collect and even just competent shooting could have changed the outcome of two games.
I think most people figured the Rockets would get hot from deep and win at least one game in this series because of it, but this one never felt like that kind of game. Most of that’s probably due to the Russell Westbrook-size hole in OKC’s rotation. Try as he might, Reggie Jackson (18 points on 18 shots) isn’t Westbrook and Scott Brooks doesn’t look like he’s going to really give him the chance to be. I get that you don’t want to put too much of your offense in the hands of Jackson and Derek Fisher, but Kevin Durant isn’t a point guard either and who is supposed to replace his shooting while he’s replacing Westbrook’s “point guarding” (or whatever it is he’s doing)? Durant’s an incredible player and looked prepared to beat the Rockets on his own in this game with 38 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, but he also contributed 7 turnovers and an awful last play that was close to being his 8th.
It’s not like the offense is worse when Durant tries to create, because the movement wasn’t that great even when he wasn’t dominating the ball, but it’s really hard for him to play that role when the opponent is willing to do anything to get the ball out of his hands immediately. That’s a good plan on Houston’s part because he’s a lot scarier as a scorer with the ball as opposed to moving without it off of screens. That doesn’t mean he can’t do both though, because you know that he can put the ball through the hoop in any way from anywhere. So if the defense isn’t going to let him handle the ball and he’s really good at shooting, maybe the ball should be in someone else’s hands to initiate the offense and Durant can work on getting good catch-and-shoot opportunities. You want the ball in your best players hands when they can do the things that Durant can and he’s going to need to create for others, but the offense should definitely be set up to get more looks for the guy hitting three-quarters of his shots. The Thunder offense isn’t running terribly, but just imagine if Durant got 7 more shots instead of those 7 turnovers.
Obviously you have to credit Houston’s defense because they’re playing OKC tough, but that’s just about their ceiling, even with James Harden playing poorly (4-of-12 for 15 points with 10 turnovers) and Jeremy Lin out with a chest injury. How often can you expect Chandler Parsons to go for 27/10/8? I’m not totally sure what OKC’s ceiling is without Westbrook, but they haven’t reached it. They need guys to step up and hit shots to create space for Durant inside the arc, but they also have to be a bit more discerning in defining what a good shot is for them and the team. It’s uncertainty, a lack of comfort, and maybe even a bit of a lack of planning, rather than selfishness on anyone’s part so it’s something that should improve with experience. Better the Thunder struggle with it now than against a stronger opponent, but that also means they have to make the adjustments and learn from what’s not working now if they want to make that improvement.
All this mumbo jumbo aside, the best thing might just be Carlos Delfino’s fastbreak dunk. I’ve probably only thought about his existence a handful of times in my life and yet I might always remember the time he stole the ball and took it in for a dunk past Kevin Durant for the and one in the playoffs. I could have pictured a lot of things happening there: a layup, a block, a goaltend, a foul… but I really did not anticipate a dunk that good plus the foul. Afterwards Delfino acted like a total badass and everything was perfect. Well, not totally, but Durant’s revenge dunk past Chandler Parsons and through Omer Asik and Delfino sealed that deal. Es perfecto.
We’re probably looking at a gentleman’s sweep here anyway so let’s not get too high or too low on anything, but I think we would all enjoy some more of this series.
Oklahoma City Thunder lead the series 3-1