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Houston Rockets vs. OKC Thunder: Game 3 Preview

Apr 16, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) defends in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) defends in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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After taking a commanding 2-0 lead, the Houston Rockets travel to Oklahoma City for games thee and four to attempt a first round sweep.

There’s no way the Oklahoma City Thunder lie down for game three. Coach Billy Donovan has no doubt drilled into their minds the fact that no team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series. If the Houston Rockets win today, the first round will be all but over for Russell Westbrook and friends. (Or maybe not his friends, since that guy apparently only likes the ball)

Russ is staying focused during the playoffs. https://t.co/pMWez1cShA pic.twitter.com/GmEw3BJuGv

— ESPN (@espn) April 16, 2017

All that goes to say the Rockets will need to be ready to see a Thunder team that’s focused and locked in. The Chesapeake Energy Arena will be loud and rambunctious, and James Harden can kiss those M-V-P chants goodbye for a couple of games.

Other than simply showing up with accurate expectations, the thing Houston has to work on for game three is rebounding. After winning the battle of the boards by 15 in game one, the Rockets were reminded on Wednesday why OKC’s the best rebounding team in basketball. If they’re to have a chance at the 3-0 death blow, they’ll have to limit the Thunder’s second chance points.

In game one, OKC did a great job defending the three point line. The Rockets, then, went inside for most of the game. In game two, Westbrook wound up shooting his team out of the contest. He went 4-18 from the field in the fourth quarter and didn’t involve his teammates like he did before. Houston took advantage and hit several timely threes down the stretch to seal the win.

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That’s the thing about Houston’s offense. If you take the long ball away, they’ll draw fouls and go inside. If you clog the paint, they’ve got shooters to light up the scoreboard from outside. OKC picked a different poison in each of the first two games, so it’ll be interesting to see what Donovan will have them do in tonight’s matchup.

As I’ve written before games one and two, there’s no reason why the Rockets shouldn’t win tonight. They’re the better team, have arguably the better superstar, and have all the confidence in the world. The Thunder have their backs against the wall, and will have to fight tooth and nail to have any kind of chance at winning the series.

Next: 3-on-3: Thoughts From a Thunder and a Rockets Expert

Tip-off is a little later than usual, at 8:30 CT, and will be broadcast on ESPN. I can’t think of a better use of a Friday night than watching the Rockets go for the kill against OKC.

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