The Houston Rockets are uniquely equipped to take advantage of Oklahoma City’s league-best three-guard lineup of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder.
The Houston Rockets’ playoff showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder contains more storylines than a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Whether it’s Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook battling their former teams or the teams’ identical records, this series contains a narrative for anyone and everyone.
Inevitably the series will come down to who plays better basketball and not who has the most enthralling story. A Thunder series victory hinges on the effectiveness of their league-best three-man lineup of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder. Fortunately for the Rockets, they have the perfect team to neutralize OKC’s tri-guard threat.
The Thunder trio has been dominant in their first season together. They have blitzed opponents for a league-best offensive rating (127.1) and net-rating (28.6). The group is largely responsible for the Thunder’s incredible crunch-time production (a league-best +2.3 and 30-15 record), which has bolstered their record (44-28) over their expected win-loss total of 41-31.
The Thunder’s formula all season has been pretty simple: keep it close, bring on the point-guard trinity, and let them close it out. On offense, the Thunder’s trio has taken on the characteristics of their point-god, Chris Paul. The league-leading unit is efficient from the field at 52.8 percent from the field and 41.4 from three and minimizes turnovers at 11.7 per 48 minutes.
The three also get to the line constantly, boasting an NBA-best 41.9 FTA per 48 minutes. Still, by Thunder Coach Billy Donovan’s admission, this super lineup has been used sparingly, only seeing an average of 6.7 minutes per game. The problem for the Thunder is that their offense falls completely apart without two of the three on the court.
Of all the Thunder’s five-man rotations, none with a positive points-differential exclude more than one of the guards.
Next: How the Rockets can counter OKC's trio