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Rockets defeat Thunder 111-98, Houston takes 2-0 lead in series

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Houston was just too much for Oklahoma City to handle on Thursday

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Two Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder entered Game 2 looking to bounce back from an ugly loss in Game 1. Unfortunately, it was more of the same for the Thunder. Terrible decision making during the fourth and third quarter allowed Houston to run away with the game. The Rockets went on 17-0, and that was all she wrote.

It was a frustrating game to watch as the Thunder had every opportunity to win this game. James Harden did not have a big scoring night. The Rockets did not shoot the ball all that well from 3-point land. However, the Thunder failed to capitalize on these opportunities. Houston was able to ride their defense and win the game.

Oklahoma City did well in the first half of basketball. The offense was flowing, and it seemed like the Thunder had found their rhythm. Oklahoma City played quick, incisive basketball that challenged the Rockets’ defense and generated good looks.

The Thunder were well-positioned to win the game going into the break, Oklahoma City was leading the game 59-53. Luguentz Dort deserves a lot of credit for his defense on James Harden. Dort’s physicality seemed to make life uncomfortable for Harden and bothered James into a poor shooting performance.

All of the things the Thunder did well disappeared in the second half. The free-flowing, fast-moving basketball bogged down. Oklahoma City started to fall into the same bad habits that they displayed in Game 1. The ball stopped with players on the perimeter, and the Rockets’ defense suffocated OKC’s offense.

I tried to refrain from criticizing Dennis after Game 1, but he deserves some of the blame for this loss. He held onto the ball too long and looked indecisive at times; Dennis would fake a drive and then stop dead. I would prefer him to shoot the ball while he is still open or use his speed to get to the rim.

Indecisive possessions where Schroder does not commit to an offensive option are easy to defend for the Rockets. Schroder also settled for isolation basketball too many times, in my opinion.

Dennis cannot afford to play like this in the future. The Thunder have no chance of advancing if Schroder continues to lay eggs.

The Thunder lost a winnable game, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the few players who played well for the Thunder. Gilgeous-Alexander had 31 points on just 17 FGA. Shai did not play at all well in Game 1; he was much too timid for my liking. It was good to see Shai trusting his game and attacking the Rockets’ defense.

It isn’t easy to see the Thunder winning this series now. Oklahoma City sits in a 2-0 hole, and the Rockets have all of the momenta. Houston is winning games without James Harden playing well; championship level teams win games when they are not playing well.

I expect the Rockets’ bench to regress to the mean slightly, but Harden will not play as poorly as he did tonight. Russell Westbrook’s return will also bolster the Houston ranks and give the Rockets another edge over the Thunder.

The Thunder have to get smarter to win this series. The turnovers have to stop. The ‘Three Amigos’ have to play decisively and aggressively; there can be none of this standing around with the ball wasting precious time.

At the start of the year, I would have taken a tough out in the first round. However, it is not the start of the year. The Thunder have proved to be an excellent team over the last four or five months. Oklahoma City has to improve drastically to have any chance of going further in the playoffs.

A win in Game 3 is so vital to the Thunder’s playoff hopes. The Thunder has to win Saturday’s game to keep their dreams alive.