Game 1 felt like a game of two halves.
The first half belonged to OKC. Andre Roberson couldn’t miss a 3 after going a whole month without making one. James Harden threw up three airballs in his first four shots. The Rockets were missing open looks and Russell Westbrook was either hitting shots or drawing fouls.
But Houston stuck in the game by doing things that normally aren’t their forte. Despite being outshot from three (Houston was 3-16 in the first half), the Rockets held the rebounding advantage and the points-in-the-paint advantage. That’s likely a result of OKC’s reluctance to leave shooters wide open. Therefore, James Harden got to gallop into the lane at will for some layup lines.
The second half brought about the return of Houston’s normally good shooting. While the Rockets ended the game with a lower percentage from downtown than OKC, their second half was closer to their normal output. What’s more, the rebounding and paint advantages didn’t deteriorate. In fact, they continued.
With the Rockets, there are three areas of attack you have to defend: Harden, the rolling big man, and three shooters. If you focus on one head, the others will get you. OKC took away the shooters and it resulted in their worst loss to Houston. You know they will retool. They’ll probably win the battle of the glass like they usually do. Russell Westbrook won’t go 6-23 with nine turnovers. In fact, he’ll probably get every whistle as the NBA realizes it needs this series to be long. Victor Oladipo won’t go 1-12 again. And the Thunder can relish the fact that Patrick Beverley probably can’t replicate his Game 1 heroics.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for OKC. The Rockets are due for some luck too. They won’t get Andre Roberson to hit four triples or have 18 points again. OKC wasted his best offensive game. Eric Gordon and Lou Williams won’t combine to go 6-19 again. Houston might shoot 30% from three one more time in this series, but not four more times.
All-in-all, it felt like the Rockets played a C+/B- game and still won by 31. Granted, OKC probably played a D-/F game, but eventually the Rockets will realize they are the better team. Sure, the Thunder lost by 32 in Game 1 against the Spurs last year and went on to win the series. But this Thunder squad doesn’t have Dion Waiters.
Prediction: OKC bounces back. OKC in 6.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on TNT.