In a game that didn't matter, the Thunder played their starters the whole way and lost to the Houston Rockets, 110-118. The Rockets were the hungrier team, while the Thunder looked like they were going through the motions. There was a point in the third quarter where OKC had a 12 point lead, and looked like they might pull away. But a couple of missed shots led to Rockets transition opportunities, and Houston was right back in the game.
Poor defense from Enes Kanter really hurt the Thunder down the stretch in the third and in the early fourth. James Harden, or whomever was leading the Rockets in transition, had an easy time getting Kanter to backpedal around the pick and roll. Kanter also struggled to provide pressure, often leaving his man open. Combine that with the fact that the Thunder were rolling with KD or Singler at power forward for large portions of the game. That small lineup really hurt OKC on the defense and rebounding front.
But make no mistake, this was another game where the Thunder simply failed to execute in the clutch. The Thunder had a 5 point lead with 5:50 to go in the third, and were within striking distance until the final minute of the game. Kevin Durant couldn't get the ball in the right spots. In the final six minutes, KD had two pull up threes, had the ball poked away once by Beverley, had a shot blocked by Capela around a screen, and threw the ball away to Harden while looking for Morrow in the corner.
Westbrook was fairly effective down the stretch though, scoring 4 points and drawing a foul during the last six minutes. The only problem is that the Thunder's defense just wasn't on the same level. The Rockets capitalized on their transition opportunities.
And yes, James Harden was downright magical. Roberson forced Harden into some bad shots, but also sometimes bit off more than he could chew. Donovan decided to go with Waiters against Harden in the clutch, and bring the pressure. But Harden dished four assists in the final six minutes, and had a turnaround shot over Waiters.
What was the main reason that the Thunder lost this game?
Effort. When you look at the stats, it's plain to see. The Rockets had 15 first half offensive rebounds. And the Rockets forced the Thunder into 19 turnovers. Both of those numbers are absurdly high.
Defensively, it seemed like the Rockets gameplan was to dare OKC's star players to giver up the ball. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant could get post-ups in single coverage, but were fiercely double-teamed any time they tried any kind of screening action. Neither of them could get out of the traps very effectively. Westbrook finished the game with 8 turnovers, while KD had 5.
Meanwhile, some Thunder players are getting straight up ignored on offense. Dion Waiters only took 3 shots in 25 minutes of action. The last two shots were during garbage time, so Waiters really only got 1 shot. Serge Ibaka was 3 of 10, but got his last shot attempt with 3:44 to go in the third quarter. Even Steven Adams, who had 10 attempts on the game, got no fourth quarter shots. The ball stopped moving efficiently for OKC.
- Dwight Howard was a total non-factor today. Talked to Clifford Ray on the sidelines at one point, and then joked around with fans during the game. 2 of 6, 5 fouls. Great defense by Adams to stop the Howard post ups.
- Trevor Ariza either looked great or terrible. Lots of open missed shots, lots of shots made on other players.
- Steven Adams was 3 of 8, with 3 assists and 1 turnover. I really like Adams decision making, because he doesn't really waffle. It's either a shot, a pass, or a pivot. And he doesn't waste time. Tough going around the rim, but Capela was definitely fired up.
- Russell Westbrook was 3 of 5 from mid-range today. Really glad to see the cotton shot making a major late-season comeback.
- Kyle Singler had a crazy floater at one point, but was otherwise totally forgettable. Somehow got two foul calls while dribbling around.
- Andre Roberson only got 20 minutes today, and I can't imagine why. Had a transition score, and a nice baseline cut.
- As many commenters pointed out in the gamethread, we saw some Morrow and Robes together tonight. More please!
- Saw Serge Ibaka go to the fade and the hook today in post-ups. More of that too.
- Randy Foye hit a couple of corner threes today, which was very nice.
- Probably valid to question why our starters are playing so heavily at this point. I guess we're waiting for mathematical certaintly.
- The Rockets missed a metric ton of open threes today. I felt like they should have won by 20.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, a very quietly awesome performance
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, for a solid overall game
Thunder Blunder: Enes Kanter
Thunder Plunderer: James Harden, man I miss having Thabo to lock him down
Next Game: At the Denver Nuggets, Tuesday, April 5th, 8 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!