The Oklahoma City Thunder had six players score in double figures as they defeated the Houston Rockets 103-94, winning the series 4-2 and advancing to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. Game 1 will be played at 12PM CDT on Sunday, May 5th.
The Thunder won by holding James Harden to 7-22 shooting and through Scott Brooks' strategy of sitting Kendrick Perkins for most of the game. Perkins started the game, but after 2 turnovers and a tech, was taken out with 7:38 left in the first and never returned. Brooks opting to start the second half with DeAndre Liggins in Perkins' place.
In a similar fashion to game 5, after going up 4-0 to start the game, OKC allowed the Rockets to score the next 15 points, but eventually slowed down the Rockets, fighting their way back to end the first down 29-26.
In the 2nd quarter, it was the second unit for the Thunder that eventually put them back on top, going on a 10-0 run led in part by Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson who combined for 31 first half points, putting The Thunder up 58-54 at the break.
Rockets quickly grabbed back the lead in the second half, eventually going up by 10 midway through the third, but the Thunder would then end the quarter on a 16-5 run to take a 1 point lead into the fourth. But the wheels came off for the Rockets, as The Thunder began the fourth outscoring the Rockets 21-7, and putting the game, and series away.
Harden, hampered by a strep throat, led the Rockets with 26 Points, while Parsons added 25. Kevin Martin ended with 25 on the night, and Reggie Jackson added 17.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
For the much of the game, The Thunder dominated the same back-court that embarrassed them a few nights ago. Martin and Jackson combined for 42, while their counterparts in Harden and Patrick Beverley went 11-33 for 34 points. Instead it was Chandler Parsons who carried the Rockets for much of the game. But in the second half the Rockets just couldn't find the offensive firepower they were use to. For the final two quarters of their season, Lin had 0, Garcia had 3, Asik had 2, and Harden went 3-11 from the floor.
The Rockets were up by 10 with 5:48 left to go in the third before going on a 16-3 run. OKC then followed that up with a 14-4 run to start the fourth quarter. Durant finally got the help he so desperately needed from his teammates, especially from Martin, who had been non-existent the last few games. The contributions from the rest of the team essentially ruined the Rockets plans of triple teaming Durant, which had led them to victory in the past 2 games.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
Since losing Russell Westbrook, the Thunder moved to a one man team, with Durant carrying the Thunder with lackluster results. Tonight Durant got the help he needed from his teammates, especially Kevin Martin, who had 21 in the first half to help counteract Durant's slow start. The hot starts by Jackson and Martin forced the Rockets to focus their defense on the rest of lineup, allowing Durant to go 8-14 for 18 points in the second half.
Scott Brooks made the uncharacteristic move of actually changing his lineup and rotation this game. After Perkins' abysmal start, Brooks had enough, and Perkins never played again. Brooks began the second half with Liggins in Perkins place, which, may have been the first time in Brooks' career he's made such a change.
What does this game tell us about what to expect for the Memphis series?
With the round behind them, the Thunder will face the Grizzlies who defeated the Clippers minutes after the OKC final. The Thunder went 1-2 against the Grizzlies this year, but two of those games had a significantly different Memphis lineup, and all of those had Westbrook in them, so it's hard to tell what this series will bring.
One thing is for sure, if the Thunder want to beat the Grizzlies, they will have to get better play out of their big men. The Thunder have appeared to figure out Zach Randolph, but OKC was unable to stop Marc Gasol, Jerryd Bayless, and Mike Conley in their three match ups. For the Grizzlies, the series will hinge upon Tayshaun Prince's play on Durant on both sides of the ball.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant 27 points, 8 Rebounds, 6 assists.
Thunder Down Under: Reggie Jackson, 17 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds.
Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, 0 points, 2 turnovers, 1 tech, 5 pushups.
Thunder Plunderer: Chandler Parsons, 25 points, 7 rebounds.
Next game: vs. Memphis Grizzles, on Sunday, May 5th @ 12:00 pm CT. (Game 1)
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