The Thunder cracked the Rockets upside the head. - Scott Halleran
Call it a schedule loss. Call it an embarrassment. Call it mercifully over.
I implore the gentle reader to pardon any infelicities observed in my efforts to recapture the action of the basketball contest between the Houston Rockets and the Thunder of Oklahoma City. All signs point to me suffering from a case of the crud.
THE FIRST QUARTER - I did not witness the first quarter inasmuch as my viewing efforts might be described as "witnessing". Rather I will parrot the broadcast announcers who stated that the Rockets starting the game shooting well, going 10-16 early on, only to fall away sharply. As the Rockets were unable to score baskets later in the first, the Thunder mimicked their early efforts and even surpassed them, shooting 11-18 to close the quarter. Thusly the Audible Storm Phenomenon transformed an 6 point early Rocket lead into a 5 point deficit to close the first 25% of the game.
THE SECOND QUARTER - It began much as the first ended, with the Thunder opening a nine point lead. At this point, reader, I feared the game would turn sharply against the Rockets, as they experienced fatigue from their tilt with the Spurs of San Antonio less than 24 hours previous. Not so, as "Toney" Douglas and "Mook" Morris scored consecutive three point baskets to narrow the gap to 3 points. The rest of the quarter was a back and forth affair, with former Rocket player Kevin Martin showing signs of both health and life, scoring as he pleased.
Though James Harden almost singlehandedly lead the way for the Rockets, Russell Westbrook again and again blazed to the basket and scored easily. The Rockets answered with fast breaks when possible but Kevin Durant of the Thunder found his stroke after flailing about early on and scored 8 straight points for the Thunder widening their lead to 10 points. A fairly furious demi-game ended with the Rockets simply giving the ball away time and again and essentially giving Oklahoma City an 18 pt lead. Fatigue was evident on the part of the Rockets as they donated 11 possessions in one half.
THE THIRD QUARTER - Rockets started out hot, narrowing the Thunderous lead by 7 in the first minute of the third stanza, and that was the high water mark of the third quarter. The Rockets bugbear appeared again; turnovers. The Rockets played tired, and gave away point after point, and hope of ever closing the gap dwindled. With six minutes remaining in the quarter and James Harden unable to connect even on free throws it appeared to any observed save Coach Kevin McHale that this contest would not be won by the starters.
Why not give Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas and the rest a chance? Could they do worse than an impending 30pt deficit and miss more than 11 straight shots? At then end of the third quarter the Rockets had shot 12-41 after going 10-16 to being the game. Would the bench be notably inferior to this? The Thunder were obviously superior in all parts of the game in this frame
THE FOURTH QUARTER - It began. Both teams played basketball. It ended. The Thunder won the game.
Lucky fans were treated to a tremendous amount of Cole Aldrich rather than Donatas Motiejunas. No one but Kevin McHale knows the reason for this. The Rockets bench played much of the quarter, as did the bench of the Thunder. The Oklahoma City bench was better than that of the Rockets.
Observations - The Rockets remain a young team, and also one with a thin bench. When the team is tired there are no strong reserves to tow the rope for twenty or more minutes. Reflecting on this game I was reminded of the Rockets playing the Thunder about 4 years ago. The Thunder couldn't break through against the Rockets, a clearly superior team to the Thunder of that time. It was obvious however, that the Thunder were in the process of building something remarkable. Now the Thunder are a contender and the Rockets are constructing a contender, which sometimes resembles pounding nails with one's forehead.
Taking a shorter view, the Rockets simply cannot gift their opponents more than 20 turnovers. Pace explains some of it, fatigue explains a bit more, and then there is plain sloppiness. The Thunder will punish a turnover more harshly than nearly any other team in the NBA. Their ability to exploit leads and render close games massacres is only surpassed by Miami, perhaps.
Marcus Morris - The only Rocket who didn't look as though he was pushing a boulder uphill. He finished with 24pts and 6rbs in 32 minutes. He's surprised a number of people this season, including me.
No serious injuries! JLin got knocked in the side of the head. I hope he's ok.
Toney Douglas - he wasn't bad.
Fatigue - 4 games in 5 nights on a team that really only features a good starting unit is a killer. Also, I was fatigued and ran out of steam with my old timey writing schtick.
Cole Aldrich - 4 turnovers, 3 fouls, no points, no rebounds, no blocks. He came close to having as many fouls and turnovers as minutes played.
[Note by Xiane, 12/29/12 10:06 PM CST ] A thought occurs to me, "ClutchParsons" pointed out that Patrick Beverly was in Houston already, but not signed to the team. I wonder if the run Aldrich has gotten in the last two games was an audition for his bench spot, if the Rockets are considering who to waive. If so, it hasn't looked good for Cole, who probably needs to go to the DLeague or Europe and play big minutes and get his confidence and game back, or prove he has a game.
Three Point Shooting - 8 for 30! The Thunder went 13-29.