With the Oklahoma City Thunder having discovered new life against the Houston Rockets, NBA expert Sekou Smith doesn’t believe the Rockets should be worried about offensive adjustments now.
The Houston Rockets are currently in a tight series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is tied 2-2. The Rockets were the favorites to win the series, prior to the injury to Russell Westbrook, and they got off to a stellar start in the first two games.
The Rockets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, winning by double-figures in each contest. The Thunder stormed back in Games 3 and 4 to tie the series up, which was in large part to reserve Dennis Schroeder, who averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, compared to 9.5 points through the first two games.
The Rockets led by five points with roughly a minute left in Game 3, but collapsed down the stretch due to mental errors, and lost in overtime. The Rockets had their fair share of opportunities in Game 4, as they jumped out to an 88-73 lead early in the third quarter, after making eight consecutive 3-pointers.
But the Rockets went 3-for-23 on their 3-point attempts to close the game out, which opened the door for Oklahoma City to make a comeback. The Rockets’ determination to continue to shoot threes when they aren’t falling has drawn frustration from many fans, and Mike D’Antoni stated after the game that he’s allowing the players to make a judgment call on when to shoot the three and when to drive to the lane or step inside the 3-point line.
Mike D'Antoni on shooting too many 3's: "We shot 39.7%. There are times you do and times you don't. I'm allowing the guys to be able to understand when we can do it and when we can't. It's easy afterwards to say but they've gotta play the game and they've gotta figure it out."
— Anthony Duckett (@a_duckett) August 24, 2020
Sekou Smith says Rockets should stick to their gameplan
On Tuesday, NBA analyst Sekou Smith joined the Sean Salisbury Show on SportsTalk 790 and explained why the Rockets should focus less on making adjustments to their offensive gameplan.
“You’re going to live with this. They’re playing a team that knows them well. Chris Paul knows what the Rockets are trying to do intricately. He’s been there.
I don’t know that there’s a ton of adjustments you make, offensively. You’ve just got to outplay those guys, and right now they’re not outplaying the Thunder.”
The Thunder relied on Chris Paul and Schroder to close the game out for them, using a combination of Paul’s famed mid-range shot and Dennis Schroeder’s well-known ability to drive to the lane for their offensive attack. This is an element that the Rockets have missed without Russell Westbrook, as he has the ability to score in the paint and also make the elbow jumper.
But not only that, Westbrook’s driving ability could provide a counter to Schroeder’s scoring, as he could bait Schroeder into fouls, which could limit his playing time and his aggressiveness.
Sekou Smith discussed how Westbrook can make a difference for the Rockets, while also sharing what Westbrook would provide.
“Another threat. Somebody else that can change the temperature on the court. Somebody other than James that can serve as your catalyst. And a guy who mentally is a force of nature when he wants to be.
You can’t account for what Russ can do on the court. Here’s a guy who doesn’t shoot it particularly well from deep and he still finds a way to impact the game whenever he’s out there. So he certainly adds a whole new element to the series when Russ gets back.”
The Rockets have been cautious with Westbrook, and rightfully so considering the nature of his injury. Westbrook has been recovering from a quadriceps injury, which is a soft tissue injury that can easily be re-aggravated.
But Westbrook has resumed shooting activities and conducted a pre-game workout prior to Game 4, which is certainly an encouraging sign. With OKC having new life in the series, the Houston Rockets’ best adjustment could in fact be Westbrook, so long as he’s healthy.