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Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Game 6 preview

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The more desperate team has won all five games in this first round series. Houston came out with more urgency in Games 1 and 2, then Oklahoma City responded with work of their own in Games 3 and 4. Game 5 started with Houston on top, but the Thunder turned it into a mud fight before Houston came out of halftime looking to end the game quickly.

As opposed to Houston’s Game 4 fiasco where they blew a double digit lead in all of three minutes, the Thunder never stood a chance after Houston came out of the gates firing to begin the third quarter. It’s safe to say that we can expect OKC to come with a bit more intensity tonight.

The Rockets found their defense again in Game 5, and the strategy was the same one you see at the YMCA: leave the worst guy open and hope he doesn’t burn you. On Saturday, that was Lu Dort, and his 3-16 night to go along with his suddenly pedestrian defense on James Harden meant that the Rockets could play 5-on-4, rather than the 5-on-8 it feels like they’ve been playing all series. And before any OKC fans chirp back, the Thunder once again shot more free throws than Houston, 23-14. And two of Houston’s free throws only came because the referees had to go back and review Dennis Schroder’s nut shot to P.J. Tucker. They originally called a moving screen on Tucker and nothing on Schroder.

Speaking of Schroder, he was once again OKC’s biggest offensive threat and finished with a team-high +/- of -1. The Thunder are lucky that he’ll be available in Game 6, and the Rockets have to worry that he’ll be out for testi-blood. If Dort is once again throwing up bricks, Billy Donovan will almost certainly have to play his best lineup (Schroder-SGA-CP3-Gallo-Adams) 40+ minutes each.

The Thunder shot 15.2% (7-46) from deep in Game 5. And while Houston’s defense deserves some credit for that poor shooting performance, it’s probably not reproducible. On the other side of the coin is Russell Westbrook, who gave Houston an early lift but was otherwise sub-par in Game 5.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have had several comebacks this season. They’ve overcome a 2-0 deficit, but this is their biggest hole of the season, one loss away from elimination.

Tip-off is at 8pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest and TNT