In a chance to set the tone early on in the series, the Rockets went out in Oklahoma City last night and played one of their worst games of the season. Nobody seemed to be confident in their shot, they allowed the Thunder to get whatever shot they wanted, and did not present a legitimate threat the entire night. Though it was tough to watch, a Rockets team from just a few years ago gives this current roster a glimmer of hope.
In the 2009 Western Conference semifinals, the Rockets were pitted against the #1 seeded Lakers, who had dominated the NBA behind their big three of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. In that series, the Rockets were blown out twice, each appearing to be a knockout punch, and rallied to win the next game.
Without Yao, who they lost after game three, that Rockets team resembled this one in a number of ways. They shot a lot of three (6th in the NBA), lacked a true post presence, and weren't too consistent offensively. Remarkably, that inconsistency worked in their favor as they tried to pull the upset.
As Daryl Morey noted in his Reddit AMA, the way the Rockets had the best shot at the Thunder was to "increase the variance." In short, inconsistent performances that vary wildly from game to game, give teams a better shot at pulling upsets. If you are playing average basketball in every game against the Thunder, you'll probably lose every one of them. However, if you play awfully in some and tremendously in others, you'll still lose your worst games but have a shot to win the ones you play tremendously in.
Even though the Rockets were rocked in a number of games against LA, they played tremendously in three and nearly pulled the upset. Against Oklahoma City, the Rockets are very likely to lose the series, but the volatility of their performances gives them a shot.