Defense, Robert Covington’s resurgence lead Houston Rockets in Game 5

Houston Rockets Robert Covington (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Robert Covington (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets overcome playoff problems with a huge win Saturday, led by big performances from Robert Covington and James Harden.

Russell Westbrooks‘s first game back was not picture perfect, as he scored seven points on 23 percent shooting from the field. Fortunately, James Harden led the Houston Rockets with 31 points on 73 percent shooting, which was his most efficient night in the series.

Harden shot the ball well from three, going 4-for-8 for a 50 percent clip. Harden’s patience allowed him to see the floor better, as opposed to what happened when he got carried away with his shot selection in Game 4.

James was able to beat Luguentz Dort around and behind picks consistently, helping free him up for drives and assists to open teammates. Harden also took advantage of individual switches that left him guarded by guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, who struggled all game trying to stay in front of him.

The Houston Rockets’ paint monster

Eric Gordon has become instrumental in the paint for the Rockets, with all nine of his made attempts being from there. His quickness allowed him to not only beat his opponents down the court but also beat them to the basket at will in the halfcourt offense.

Gordon attacking the basket allowed for en efficient night for him as well, as he finished with 20 points and four rebounds on 9-of-17 from the field.

Robert Covington’s bounceback performance

Robert Covington used a 6-of-11 shooting night from the perimeter to score a playoff career-high 22 points on Saturday. He also led the club in steals with three and had a game-high plus-36 when he was on the court.

Covington went into Game 5 struggling in the series, but he finally flipped the script at a critical time. Hopefully, Covington stays on the positive path for the Rockets.

The Defensive effort by the Houston Rockets

The Rockets were outstanding on defense, particularly in the second half. Overall, they forced the Thunder into 18 turnovers while only committing 11 themselves. They also kept the rebounding disparity in check, only being out-boarded by three (58-55).

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The Rockets only allowed the Thunder to score 80 points, which was the fewest they’ve allowed in the Mike D’Antoni and the fewest any team has scored in this year’s playoffs. Danilo Gallinari, who was having a huge series before Saturday, was kept completely in check, only scoring one point.

Houston also held Chris Paul to just 16 points on 20 percent from 3-point range while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only scored four. Each of these players also had four turnovers each because of the Rockets being able to clog the paint and confuse them.

It all added up to a 114-80 victory, with a chance to end the series looming.

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With an opportunity to close out the series on Monday, the Rockets know it won’t be easy. “To close people out is one of the hardest things to do,” said Mike D’Antoni after Game 5. “It doesn’t mean anything. We gotta win the next game and they gotta win the next game.”