After getting tripped and sent to the line, Russell Westbrook just had to get in Goran Dragic's face. Why? Perhaps it was a sense of pride, or unchecked anger. But with your team quickly losing what was once a 12 point lead with 48 seconds to go, you DON'T get a pointless technical. Especially when the call went your way!
I know, there were other reasons the Thunder lost the game. But I just can't help hating how this one turned out.
To their credit, the Houston Rockets actually did an excellent job of sticking to their gameplan tonight. In general, they were really good at eliminating the Thunder's fast break points, which really slowed their offense down. They also did a good job of exploiting the Thunder's terrible help defense. I can't tell you how many times I saw a Rocket score on an easily made teardrop shot or an open layup on a simple pick n' roll play. Lastly, their excellent play from beyond the arc (most notably in transition) allowed them to open up a couple of leads during the game and make an epic comeback in the fourth.
But, rather than focusing on what the Rockets did well, let's look at top three things the Thunder did terribly tonight.
1. Durant's Defense on Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons had a career high tonight. Not because of really amazing plays or just straight up beating his defender, but because he was straight up left alone by Kevin Durant all game. Parsons routinely worked past Durant via a pick to get into the wide open lane, caught Durant napping on the weakside, or popped off a quick shot before Durant's hands were even up. With Durant being one of the most athletic players in the league, this type of effort on defense clearly isn't his best.
Below: What else the Thunder did badly, final thoughts, awards!
2. Stupid Mistakes
The Thunder play a bit too recklessly sometimes, but tonight, the recklessness always seemed to bite them, rather than help them. There were moments, like when there was a pass to a big man in the paint with three guys surrounding him, or when Westbrook would run around and lose the ball, when I really questioned the merits of what they were doing. The Rockets, come hell or high water, weren't going to let any fast break plays go through, so why not accept that at some point and run a half-court set?
3. Terrible Help Defense in the Paint
Dalembert and Scola are big guys, but why is it so hard to get around them in order to stop a drive? Ibaka's greatest asset is the athleticism he displays in running over and blocking shots thrown up by driving guards. To see him and Perkins just sit on the side of the lane while a rocket came through defenderless was just silly.
I know it seems like I'm being a bit harsh in my criticism, but the Rockets are a team that Thunder should be defeating soundly, especially when they're missing one of their best scorers. Ivey did a capable job on defense, so you can't pin this loss on the lack of Sefolosha. The fact is, our starters just didn't play the game they were best at in the areas they could have, while trying way too hard to play their game in areas they shouldn't have. That, plus a stupid technical and some terrible end of game offense led to a surprise Rocket win.
Thunder Wonder: Serge Ibaka, for 8 Points in the last 6 minutes.
Thunder Down Under: Nazr Mohammed, for some extremely solid offensive play.
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Durant, for his bad defense and 4 turnovers.
Thunder Plunderer: Chandler Parsons, for a career-high 21 points.
Next Game: At the Denver Nuggets, Thursday, March 15th, 8 PM Central Standard Time.