The reality is that the Thunder are going to be in trouble when Harden does better than Westbrook (Harden's 37 points, nine assists and seven rebounds with 1.088 points per possession attest he did), but the Thunder are certainly doomed if Beverley is also going to be better than Russ. There was no need for an all-star center as Harden finally lived up to his franchise player tag. He wasn't moving. The Houston Rockets guard had run into a Steven Adams screen and hit the floor hard, and the crowd reacted with a hush. His ability to take advantage of the mismatches on defensive switches helped the Rockets find another path to victory, finishing with a points-in-the-paint advantage of 62-38. "We have to get back to the drawing board".
The Rockets have to hope they put on a similar show in Game 2 on Wednesday, in the hopes of starting the series with a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Thunder's offense was fairly simplistic this season, and a lot of it was predicated on Russell Westbrook's ability to generate downhill momentum.
While the series won't be won or lost in Game 2, the vibe around the matchup would drastically shift if the Thunder was able to steal a win on Wednesday night. Can't one person guard him, of course, we understand that. Patrick Beverley added 21 points with 10 rebounds, Nene Hilario chipped in with 15 points while Clint Capela had 14 points as the Rockets shot 49 percent from the field and 10 of 33 from the three-point line.
"The second half came down to mentally locking down our reads", Adams said.
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The Rockets in the regular-season led the National Basketball Association in free throws attempted per game, averaging 26.5.
The Rockets were still wrestling with the Thunder in the playoff opener Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) when the world suddenly went dark courtesy of the seven-foot, 255-pound Adams' left shoulder. When players of Westbrook's or Harden's caliber are feeling it, it's possible to impede them, but it's not likely to stop them.
"Consider, however, that rugged Patrick Beverley was absent during Oklahoma City's lone seasonal win vs. Houston. If you read the game right, you have to pick one or the other". But where Harden separates himself from Westbrook is in making his teammates better. There was a much greater emphasis on getting as close to the basket as you could for an open look because every shot counted for the same amount of points. "We haven't done that all season, but this is the right time to do it".
Butler had 30 points and nine rebounds and the Bulls outlasted top-seeded Boston 106-102 in Game 1 on Sunday on an emotional night for grieving Celtics star Isaiah Thomas.
The screen from the big Kiwi led to Andre Roberson sinking a three-pointer for the Thunder. He missed 17 of 23 shot attempts and was largely rendered ineffective in the second half, scoring seven points as Houston extended its five-point halftime lead to 33 points. OKC shooting guard Victor Oladipo shot just 1 of 12 from the field. Needless to say, if the Thunder are unable to grab more rebounds, limit second chance opportunities and step up offensively, then this will be a hard-fought four or five game series.