The Houston Rockets dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder in their Game 1 victory. Here are five things they must do if they want to repeat that performance.
The Houston Rockets‘ Game One victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was about as comprehensive a victory as they come. The Rockets barely trailed, as their only deficit was at the 7:15 mark of the opening quarter, in which the score was 9-6.
The Rockets jumped out to a 23-point lead by the third, as they led 98-75 with 2:43 remaining in the third period. The Rockets ultimately closed the game out 123-105, but the score was much closer than how the game was actually played.
It’s safe to say that the Rockets looked like dynamite on both offense and defense. In the series opener, the Rockets held some key advantages over the Thunder that they’ll want to continue throughout the series and the duration of the playoffs.
Here are five things to watch for in Game Two.
Next: Offensive Keys to Success
Rockets’ Keys to Success on Offense
5. Keep the Bench Warmers
The Rockets need to thank their bench for Game One. The starters played to a stalemate at 81 points apiece but the Rockets bench obliterated the Thunder’s 42-27.
Jeff Green and Ben McLemore combined to go 7-of-14 from deep. Green, in particular, had a fantastic offensive game, scoring 22 points to go along with six boards and four assists. If the Rockets’ bench can continue to play this well, they’re going to be a problem.
4. Win the Turnover Battle, again
In the NBA there are two ways to get extra possessions. The first is to force a turnover, and the second is to get an offensive rebound. The Rockets have punted on winning the offensive rebounding battle and put all their eggs into the turnover battle.
In Game One, they won the turnover battle 12-7 (+5) but lost the offensive rebounding battle 7-4 (-3). Here’s the thing, that strategy netted the Rockets two more possessions over the Thunder. The Rockets need to continue to win the turnover battle by large margins but they’re off to a good start.
Next: Keys to Success on Defense
Rockets’ Keys to Success on Defense
3. Keep Steven Adams out of the paint (on defense)
Steven Adams has made his reputation on the defensive end of the court but his defense was completely neutralized in game one. The Rockets’ microball system drew him out of the paint on defense and he contested zero shots at the rim.
The Rockets went 17-of-22 on shots at the rim and a large reason was because Adams simply wasn’t close enough to offer much resistance.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/08/18/0041900171/328/7d489a84-742d-ee39-4d77-f7cf1ec12627_1280x720.mp4
Billy Donovan might have to limit Adams’ minutes or run the risk of the Rockets dominating the paint game after game, which is truly the strangest sentence ever written.
2. Contain Danilo Gallinari
The Rockets will need to do a better job of containing Danilo Gallinari. It’s not that he scored 29 points but how he fits into the Thunder’s offense that makes him the Thunder’s most dangerous player.
Gallinari is a lethal shooter and at 6’10 no one on the Rockets can contest his shot unless they’re tightly defending him. The Rockets’ hyper-aggressive switch-everything defense led to a few too many good looks for Gallinari in Game One.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/08/18/0041900171/550/23ed1d69-1c03-111a-bf8f-e332ed26c87a_1280x720.mp4
The Rockets were lucky he only took five 3-pointers but 10-of-his 17 field goal attempts were classified as uncontested. The Thunder have three fantastic point-guards that can collapse a defense at will.
If the Rockets don’t make an effort to keep track of Gallo, look for the Thunder to exploit this in Game Two.
1. Continue to contain OKC in transition
The Rockets need to be the better team in transition and in Game One they were dominant. They have never had any problems scoring in transition (2nd-best in the league at 25.9) but over the course of the season, their defense has left much to be desired (league-worst 23.8 points).
In Game One the Rockets were fantastic on both ends. They held the Thunder to only six transition points on four field goal attempts and scored 21 points on 15 attempts themselves.
The offensive output is to be expected but the defense is a welcome surprise. The Rockets were always too fast to be that bad at transition defense but it looks like the scent of the postseason has woken everybody up.
If this new transition defense is here to stay, the Rockets are legitimate contenders.