|2012-2013 NBA PLAYOFFS!|
|April 24th, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|6:00 PM Central Daylight Time|
|Turner Network Television, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network Houston|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), SportsTalk 790|
|The Dream ShakeRed94|
|Playoffs: Game 1 (Thunder Lead Series 1-0)|
|Regular Season Series: Nov 28th, Dec 29th, Feb 20 (Thunder won Season Series 2-1)|
|Injury Report: A Clean Bill of Health.|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Jeremy Lin|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||James Harden|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Chandler Parsons|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Greg Smith|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Omer Asik|
As great as the blowout in Game 1 was, the series still stands at 1-0, and it is far from over. Still, the writing seems to be on the wall for Houston. The only reason they were even able to stay competitive last night was an unusually bad performance from Kevin Martin, resulting in a temporary bench collapse. By the third quarter, the game was all but decided.
Still, I do think there's a slight glimmer (a very slight glimmer) of hope for Houston if they want to make this thing a series. What's the solution? Going small, and putting someone like Chandler Parsons or Carlos Delfino on Serge Ibaka. Ibaka entire game is getting basic picks and using his speed to nail wide open 15 foot shots. He's definitely a factor when it comes to off-ball cuts to the basket and offensive rebounding, but he doesn't have the skillset to punish a smaller defender.
Of course, there's the obvious disadvantage in the rebounding department. Parsons and Delfino don't provide too much in the way of size, and would definitely be overwhelmed by Ibaka. This would only exacerbate an already existing problem, since the Rockets have lost the battle of the boards in all three of their losses against Oklahoma City this year. But, since they're so prone to suffer in that area anyway, I would argue that the defensive improvement it provides would be in their best interests.
Even if the Rockets do manage to shut down Ibaka, they still have a myriad of other problems to face. Kevin Martin struggled against them last night, but he was missing a lot of wide open shots and shouldn't see a repeat performance. The Rockets do have one of the better players in the league at defending Kevin Durant in Chandler Parsons, but he usually finds a way to be efficient regardless. To top it all off, the Rockets love to load their defense on one side of the floor and pressure the other team's stars. This kills them against the Thunder, who were able to look to people outside of their core for crucial scoring help. The regular rotation of players not named Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, or Martin went 16 of 24 from the floor Sunday Night, shooting 66%.
On the Thunder's side of things, they need to concentrate on ball control and movement. Russell Westbrook has struggled with turnovers against Houston in the past, and they'll make you pay if you drive in on the three guys they have waiting in the paint. The key is to keep swinging the ball across the floor. As long as you can avoid the trap, you can always catch someone on the Houston defense napping.
At the end of the day, as long as James Harden and Jeremy Lin play isolation ball on offense, the only way the Rockets can win a game against Oklahoma City is a out-of-this-world shooting performance. It's not a question of talent, it's simply a question of matchups. The Rockets are basically a gimmicky team facing the Thunder, who have the exact tools they need to stop the gimmick.
Anyway, there's lots of things to look for if tonight's game gets boring. The crowd at the Peake last night left early, much to many writer's chagrin. How long will they stay if this one gets out of hand? We should also get another look at some Thunder backups, like Ronnie Brewer, DeAndre Liggins, Perry Jones, and Hasheem Thabeet. You could also ask whomever you're watching the game with if they know who Donatas Montejuanas is. Or if they're excited about seeing James Anderson.
Eh, who am I kidding, the ending probably won't be very exciting. But I do have a feeling that Houston will be able to keep this one competitive, at least for a while, and give us a good show.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Houston Rockets 91.
If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.