After winning the franchise's first game in five years without an active Russell Westbrook and despite a vintage Kevin Durant performance, the Oklahoma City Thunder fell short of sweeping the Houston Rockets Monday as the Rockets pulled out a 105-103 Game 4 victory.
Houston got off to a hot start in the first quarter including Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia combining for five early threes. Parsons and Garcia combined for 17 points in the first 12 minutes. The Thunder shot better from the field in the first (OKC: 53 FG%, HOU: 49 FG%), however, the Rockets took care of the ball better (OKC: 7 TO, HOU: 5 TO) and turned in seven dimes on 11 buckets.
Oklahoma City looked out of sorts early, playing inefficient offense with terrible ball movement. However, they fought back to grab a seven-point lead at halftime with a 36-point second quarter.
Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher exploded in the second period with 19 points combined off the bench including 5-8 from long range. Durant was forced to run the point for most of the first half and with Martin and Fisher knocking down shots, he was able to create more off the dribble.
The Rockets answered Oklahoma City's 36-point second quarter by pouring in 38 points on 13-20 shooting (65%) in the third. The Thunder couldn't keep up as James Harden, Patrick Beverley and Parsons combined for 29 points and seven assists. Amazingly, Houston only knocked down two threes on the way to their 38-point third.
Durant did all he could in the third with 14 points on 4-5 shooting. However, with little help from his teammates, the Thunder turned a seven-point halftime lead into a seven-point deficit going into the final 12 minutes.
The Rockets did everything they could to keep the ball out of Durant's hands in the fourth quarter. They even double-teamed him from 94-feet on an inbounds play late in the game.
However, with Oklahoma City's defense stepping up late, the Thunder still had a chance and the ball, down two with less than 10 seconds left in the game.
On the final play, Durant snatched the inbounds pass and dribbled around the perimeter looking for a game-winning three. Great defense by Parsons forced Durant to dish to Jackson who missed a game-tying lay-up in the middle of the lane. Serge Ibaka pulled down the offensive board, but missed the put-back on the left side of the basket. The buzzer sounded sending the series to Game 5 in Oklahoma City Wednesday night.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's results?
Initially, I thought the Thunder looked terrible offensively. Then I took a look at the box score and realized they really did look terrible offensively.
No team can expect to win in the playoffs turning the ball over 22 times and if it weren't for Houston's 20 turnovers, this game wouldn't have been close.
I don't mind Durant running the point-forward, but not for the majority of the game. He turned it over seven times, but he was also being double teamed while being asked to take over the game. His turnovers were understandable.
What's not understandable is Jackson taking 18 shots and Durant taking 16. Shot attempts can be deceiving because Durant's missed while being fouled don't count against him in the box score. However, I don't care how many free throws Durant attempts, he should never have less shots than Jackson.
Also, the Thunder have to find a way to alleviate Durant some room in the lane. He can't drive when three defenders leave their men to stop him from getting to the bucket. Martin and Fisher knocked down shots in the second quarter and Durant was given more space to create. See how that works? If the Thunder want to continue in these playoffs, they need their shot-makers to make shots.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder lost?
The Thunder's play in the first and third quarters led to their Game 4 loss. They were outscored 67-48 in the two periods with Durant on the floor for 46 of the 48 minutes.
The Thunder looked lost early, obviously still reeling for the Westbrook injury and they couldn't defend a soul in the third quarter. The Rockets scored 38 points in the third and only hit two threes.
Durant's teammates didn't give him much room to work with all night. The only way for him to get to the lane while being double-teammed is with open shooters knocking down open shots. That didn't happen and a nearly flawless effort from Durant was laid to waste as the Thunder allowed the Rockets to steal Game 4.
What does this game tell us about what to expect for Game 5?
I would expect the Thunder to take a hard look at what they need to do to help Durant offensively going into Game 5.
They get a day off, which isn't much, but it's enough to get rest and watch film. Obviously, they know what they have to do. They have to hit shots and they have to give Durant more support. They also have to defend the perimeter better or Houston will continue to light it up from long range.
I expect the Thunder to come out better in Game 5 and if they can step up their defense in the first three quarters, they should be able to end the series and wait for the Clippers/Grizzlies winner for Round 2.
|Final - 4.29.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||24||36||24||19||103|
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Thunder Wonder: (OBVIOUS): Kevin Durant, 38 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Thunder Down Under: N/A
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, 8 points in 36 minutes including just 2 points in the 2nd half
Thunder Plunderer: Chandler Parsons, 27 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists
THIS WAS UGLY...