You know it's not your night when in one quarter, Kendrick Perkins throws up an alley-oop and Serge Ibaka drills a three from the corner. Or when Serge Ibaka has more threes made than Jeremy Lin. The Thunder rode hot shooting and the Rockets didn't make much of an effort to stop them on their way to a 120-91 victory in Oklahoma City. It was most of these players' introduction to the playoffs, and they did not answer the call well.
The Thunder took it to the Rockets early, racing out to a quick 13-2 lead as the Rockets missed their first nine field goals, but the Rockets fought back, pulling within seven by the end of the first. In the second, the Rockets got some shots to fall and pulled to a 40-40 tie with five minutes left. That would be the last time they would draw even for the rest of the night.
Jeremy Lin and the Rockets kept turning the ball over as the second quarter drew to a close, and the Thunder took advantage, getting back out to a 13 point lead they would only build on in the second half. As the Rockets bricked shot after shot in the third, the Thunder put them away, closing them out before the horn to start the fourth began.
Let's look at a couple of aspects of the loss, with some more analysis to come later tonight and tomorrow morning.
1) Jeremy Lin lays an egg
It didn't seem like anybody on the Rockets could get going in game one, but Jeremy Lin's performance was particularly painful. Counted on to be the Rockets' second option, Lin threw the ball away far too often and couldn't get anything going offensively.
He shot 1-7 from the field for 4 points, 4 assists, and 4 turnovers, getting pulled for Patrick Beverley at times during the second half. Moreover, after a solid stretch to start the night, his defense on Russell Westbrook got dramatically worse, as Westbrook finished just 2 rebounds away from a triple-double. If the Rockets want to compete in any of the games this series, Lin had better step up.
2) Tightened rotation lasts 24 minutes
In the first half, Kevin McHale went with his starters and just Carlos Delfino and Patrick Beverley off the bench. After the Rockets were smoked down the stretch of the first half, McHale opened it up to Terrence Jones in the third and gave a number of bench players minutes in garbage time in the fourth.
A number, including Francisco Garcia, acquitted themselves quite well in those minutes. With the offense sputtering, it will be interesting to see if McHale adds a player or two to his rotation in game two.
3) The Thunder are just a much better team
We knew this going in, but it became even more abundantly clear how much stronger of a team the Thunder are than the Rockets on Sunday night. When the Rockets climbed back into the game, the Thunder seemed to easily turn the light on and just demolish a helpless seeming Rockets team.
Going the other way, there was not a moment in the game where the Rockets seemed to threaten the Thunder. In a way, tonight was a night where Oklahoma City got to flex their muscles for a bit.