Houston Rockets Beat OKC in 5 Games, Advance to Round 2
By Ben Casey
The Houston Rockets narrowly defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night, eliminating them from the playoffs in five games. Onto the second round for Red Nation!
The series between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was the most hyped of any in the first round of the playoffs this year. Ending in just five games, though, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Russell Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet nearly every night, but arguably did more harm than good in doing so.
James Harden, on the other hand, didn’t rack up as many assists or rebounds as he did in the regular season, but led his team to a gentleman’s sweep on the way to the second round. He finished on Tuesday night with 34 points along with eight boards. His presence was felt defensively too, with three steals and two blocks to his credit. The Beard is slowly but surely working to dispel the no-defense rumors that are somehow still circulating.
OKC got out to a hot start in Game Five, winning from opening tip until about halfway through the second quarter. Eventually, however, Houston rallied back to win, ending Russ’s highly controversial season.
The best Rocket for the night not named Harden was Lou Williams, something that became a normality during the first round. The sharpshooter scored 22 points on 50% shooting, keeping the bench afloat as Eric Gordon struggled. Patrick Beverley added 15 points and grabbed eight boards, a necessary contribution compared to Ryan Anderson‘s and Trevor Ariza‘s off nights.
Speaking of off nights, Houston didn’t shoot well from three over the course of the whole series, but Tuesday night was simply horrendous. The team managed to hit just 16% of their attempts from beyond the arc, by far the worst margin of the five games. It’s good to see the Rockets find a way to win despite the three ball not working, but that won’t fly in the second round. They’ll have almost a week to get their shot to fall, and they should make good use of every minute.
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Another worrisome stat from the series is that OKC won every single first quarter. The Rockets struggled to score and looked sluggish on defense to start each contest. Neither the Spurs nor the Grizzlies will be as forgiving as the Thunder were in round one; Mike D’Antoni definitely has some work to do with his squad before the second round.
After the final buzzer on Tuesday, it’s worth noting that Westbrook headed straight to the locker room instead of staying to shake hands. He and Beverley had gotten into it a couple of times throughout the night, so he was fed up. It’s also realistic to think that he was clearly unhappy about the loss and just couldn’t handle the situation.
Despite the fact that Harden probably won’t MVP, it’s a good time to be a Rockets fan. They’ll be well-rested for the second round and have a real chance to compete for the Western Conference Finals. It’s certainly a better situation than what OKC’s fans are in. They get to root for the supposed MVP but won’t be watching their team anymore this year.
Congrats to Russ and the Thunder on a solid year and a fun, competitive series. Congrats to Harden and the Houston Rockets on advancing to the second round. This is gonna be good, y’all!
Next: Houston's Cap Space Situation For 2017 Free Agency
Stay tuned to Space City Scoop for predictions and analysis on the second round between now and next Monday.