There were plenty of storylines after the Rockets' game 4 victory: the Rockets defended Durant by sending two defenders at him at every opportunity, the Thunder couldn't figure out what to do when Durant had to pass the ball, Derek Fisher wouldn't miss, Kevin Martin carried the Thunder for parts of the first half, Reggie Jackson took more shots than Durant, Scott Brooks didn't make adjustments, and the Thunder fans are going to yell obscenities at Patrick Beverley.
Oh, and the Rockets played in game 4, too.
Fact of the matter was that the Rockets won a game that ESPN and TNT and most pundits assumed the Thunder would win. After all, if the Thunder won game 3 without Russell Westbrook, it was a cinch that they would take game 4. Plus, the Rockets couldn't close a game out, so there was that.
We'll start with the Harden isolation plays. I've said before that I don't mind them (stay with me, don't leave yet), but only if Harden has been feeling his jumper or if he's driving and forcing the defense to collapse in order to open up shots for the shooters. Here's the problem in this situation: Harden's jumper has been off all series. Now, that means he should look to get others the ball right? Normally, yes. But until game 4, the Rockets were awful from deep, and that's important. It caused Harden to try to take over a little too much and take even more shots.
"But why doesn't he drive more???" asks any fan with eyes. Great question, and I think the answer is multifaceted. First, Harden is not 100%. He's not 70% or anything terrible, but he's definitely hurt. That messes with a player's psyche. Unless McHale chooses to sit him (insert laugh track here), Harden has to play through this. And the Rockets need a confident Harden to win these games. Second, Harden isn't getting the foul calls he normally gets. Kevin Durant is getting them. Which leads to another thing...
I follow my fair share of Thunder fans on Twitter. Granted, Rockets fans far outnumber OKC fans, but there are quite a few of them. So I found it hilarious that while I felt like the Rockets were getting jobbed, Thunder fans were saying the same thing.
Here's what one of my friends sent me in the third quarter.
I laughed. But thought, "That fan is stupid. The Rockets are getting zero breaks and the Thunder and getting everything. Durant has been to line 1000 times already."
Then our own Hiren Joshi dropped this early in the fourth quarter
Fouls: Thunder 22 Rockets 21 FT's Thunder 20/21 Rockets 16/20— Hiren Joshi (@htown747) April 30, 2013
So while it seemed to me like the Rockets were getting nothing from the refs and that the Thunder were getting everything, I was wrong.
Anyway, the Rockets have to control the free throw line tonight. Both teams will look to establish themselves at the line, so that will be difficult. And I'm sure the refs will call Beverley for every ticky-tack call they can find so that the fans will like them.
The Rockets need Chandler Parsons to step up again. They don't need him to go triple double, even if that would be nice. They need him to be solid and aggressive. They need Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia to hit open threes and give Durant problems. They need Omer Asik to be a beast and continue to assert himself in this series. In games 1-3 he was practically invisible. In game 4, he was everywhere. The Rockets won. Coincidence? Nope.
Tonight should be a fun one.
Tip-off is at 8:30pm CST on TNT.