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2013 NBA Playoffs: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets, Game 5 Preview

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We're in our third game of the Thunder without Russell Westbrook, and the sight isn't very pretty to see.

This is where things get chippy....
This is where things get chippy....
Bob Levey
2012-2013 NBA PLAYOFFS!
The Houston Rockets (45-37)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22)
May 1st, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
8:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Turner Network Television, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network Houston
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), SportsTalk 790
Enemy Blogs: The Dream Shake, Red94
Playoffs: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 (Thunder Lead Series 3-1)
Regular Season Series: Nov 28th, Dec 29th, Feb 20 (Thunder won Season Series 2-1)
Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out), Jeremy Lin (Questionable)
Probable Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Jeremy Lin or Patrick Beverley
Thabo Sefolosha SG Patrick Beverley or James Harden
Kevin Durant SF James Harden or Chandler Parsons
Serge Ibaka PF Chandler Parsons or Greg Smith
Kendrick Perkins C Omer Asik or Omer Asik

We're in our third game of the Thunder without Russell Westbrook, and the sight isn't very pretty to see. They've outright struggled against a team that they were once able to dominate, and a whole slew of problems has arisen. The Thunder can't control the ball properly, nor can they control the ball of the boards. They seem to be stuck in this wonky zone where they have to rely on their superior offense to pull them through. Normally, that would be enough, but they don't get a lot of transition opportunities, and ball movement has really suffered.

But, there is hope of the Thunder dominating this game. It's doubtful that Brooks will be making any change in his rotation, with DeAndre Liggins playing as the 9th man and other players soaking up most of Westbrook's minutes. Hopefully, this will mean that the players on the floor can find some sort of consistency. The starters are getting used to Reggie Jackson, and the backups are getting used to Derek Fisher. Hopefully they'll be able to fashion themselves into better ballhandlers, and get the Thunder's peripheral players scoring opportunities.

The tone of this game will be immediately set by Kendrick Perkins. If he stumbles out of the gate and bumbles his way to a couple of fouls or turnovers, Scott Brooks may just go small for the majority of the game. But if Perkins is able to play some good help defense and keep the Rockets off the boards, then the Thunder should be able to quickly establish an advantage.

Another player to watch is Serge Ibaka. He was all but shut down last game, with the energetic Chandler Parsons sticking to him like glue. He wasn't able to whip open for shots in the mid-range zone. I wrote some extended thoughts on the matter here, but needless to say, he's got to find ways to get it going tonight, and he's got to see more touches.

On the Rockets side of things, they're still trying to get proper production out of James Harden. he's shot absurdly low numbers all series, mostly due to the fact that he's an isolation player going up against a pressure-heavy team. He has been effective as sucking in the pressure and dishing out the ball though, acting as more of a point guard than Patrick Beverley.

Other than that, the Rockets strategy will be the same as it was in Games 3 and 4. They'll run lots of high pick and rolls to try to get the Thunder bigs away from the basket, they'll try to keep the pace fast, they'll try to surprise you in transition, and they'll jack up a metric ton of threes. Also, Jeremy Lin is a game time decision, but he's been horrible in this series too, so he won't make much of a difference if he does play.

I'd like to think that the Thunder will play to their strengths tonight and shut down the Rockets, but if the past week tells me anything, it's that this game will go right down to the wire. The Thunder win just because of talent, momentum, and home court advantage. But, hay, a W is a W. Light up the Peake tonight!

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 102, Houston Rockets 98.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.