The Rockets lose in Oklahoma City in an emotionally charged contest with the Thunder.
Kevin Durant is just so good.
Honestly I could stop the recap right there and that would be all you needed to know. It truly makes no sense to me that the Thunder can have losing streaks with both Durant and Russell Westbrook on the active roster. The two of them just went back and forth taking over stretches of the game and there wasn’t much the Rockets could do about it.
But here is something the Rockets do have control over; whether or not they let Dwight Howard run the offense into the ground with poor post play. I’ve said this in three straight recaps now. Dwight has good nights and bad nights working ISO situations on the post. If I was counting from the start of the season, I would say it’s 50/50 overall. If Dwight can’t get his hook shot to fall then he is dead in the water against a matchup he can’t push over. Sometimes he has it working and we can play off of his post presence. But my argument is that if we just skipped the “force feed Dwight in the post” stage, then overall the Rockets AND Dwight would be a lot more effective.
In three of the last four games we have force fed Dwight down low. In the first half of each of those three games it was a massive struggle to get the offense going and eventually, once we stopped going back to the dried up well, the Rockets but together strong offensive second halves. The three games were against the Magic, Portland, and OKC. The one game we didn’t feed Dwight? The Pacers, and the offense didn’t hit a lull for the entire contest. I assume that decision was made because Hibbert has proven to be a problem in the past so the coaching staff thought they had better matchups to exploit. The Rockets need to assume this more often.
Dwight post ups aren’t inherently evil. If he gets them in transition, or in matchup advantages, he is more than capable of converting. But this “Dwight Howard versus your teams best post defender 6-8 times in the first quarter” has got to stop. The Rockets shouldn’t have to keep hitting the reset button at half time and hope for Harden to bail them out in the fourth quarter.
Alright, thats enough of that.
TO THE RECAP!
The basketball world was abuzz over the rematch between Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook. And the first six minutes of the game did not disappoint. The two point guards went at each other fervently from tip-off. Beverley was clearly feeding off the boos from the OKC crowd and Westbrook was determined to embarrass Pat if he could. Beverley halted Westbrook’s post up attempts, but Westbrook was unstoppable in transition tonight. Two small fights broke out between them in the first half. One was a duplicate of the play that got Westbrook hurt last year in the playoffs and another while the two of them were going for a lose ball.
Apparently the refs felt like they were losing control of the game because after that they CLAMPED down on all fun basketball play. The first 6 minutes flew by and the rest of the half was like wading in molasses. To a certain extent that was a good thing because it limited the Thunder’s ability to run away with the game. Despite playing pretty meh in the first quarter the Rockets were only down 26-24.
As Dwight continued to ride the struggle bus through the the second quarter, Mchale finally made his adjustment to the small lineup. With the big lineup, Ibaka’s help defense was erasing any of Houston’s opportunities near the hoop and Terrence Jones wasn’t contributing in any way shape or form. When the small lineup made it to the court the offense did see a slight increase in production but it wasn’t enough to overcome the show Durant was putting on. The Rockets went into the half down 56-41.
The third quarter saw a little life from Terrence Jones to keep Ibaka honest, and also the resurgence of an original part of the Rockets bench brigade, Francisco Garcia. According to Bill and Bull, during the flight to OKC, Garcia had been calling to the coaches to put him and his “fresh legs” in the game and he wouldn’t let them down. It was a bold strategy Cotton but it paid off, both for Garcia AND the Rockets.
Houston made a little bit of a run with the help of Jeremy Lin and Garcia towards the end of the third but every time it seemed like the Rockets were getting some momentum Durant would just pull up for a transition three and nail it. Harden does things of that nature too, but man, Durant makes it look so majestic. Like if a unicorn learned to play basketball. Assuming that unicorns exist. And that they don’t already play basketball.
The Rockets won the quarter but were still down ten going into the 4th 77-67. Harden had 17 points at that juncture and Durant had 30.
The Rockets stuck with the small lineup through the fourth quarter in hopes that it would have the same effect it had on the Blazers and they could sneak out the back door with a win. Garcia played the entire 4th quarter and hit all three of his very timely shots. Harden scored 11, mostly in transition, and the Rockets were as close as five points multiple times. But once again, the Thin Reaper was not going to let this win slip away. Calmly draining basket after basket on his way to a 42 point night.
The Rockets never gave up in this one and for that I salute them. A loss on the road in OKC when Durant and Westbrook are on their game is nothing to be ashamed of. The Rockets never closed the gap and went on to lose 106-98.
Check out the statistical nitty-gritty here.
The Rockets do it again on Thursday at 6PM CST against the Bulls on TNT.
Tags: Houston Rockets