There will be no time for Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook to complain about the officiating against Houston, because the Rockets will quickly be headed in the other direction. Westbrook also might want to holster those imaginary pistols on converted 3-pointers.
Westbrook's propensity to beg for foul calls or celebrate made shots could lead to some easy transition points for the Rockets, who finished as the NBA's second-highest scoring team (106.0).
“That's definitely been talked about,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said Saturday. “We can't get frustrated with calls. We have to get back. You make a basket, there's no celebrating. You miss the shot, you can't get frustrated and not hustle back.”
Game 1 of the Western Conference opening-round series is 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins tied for the league lead with 15 technical fouls during the regular season, falling one tech short of having to serve a one-game suspension.
Westbrook isn't the lone culprit when it comes to complaining. The Thunder ranked second in the NBA in technical fouls with 95, which includes delay of game, defensive 3-second violations, et al.
The final regular-season standings for technicals: Westbrook 15; Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins 12; Serge Ibaka 7; Hasheem Thabeet 5; DeAndre Liggins, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison and Brooks 2; Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson 1.
Brooks has been stressing transition defense for the Thunder (60-22) against the Rockets (45-37), who lead the league in team fast-break efficiency and are second in fast-break points per game.
What exactly is transition defense?
“It's run back as quickly as you can and match up,” Brooks explained. “We want to make sure they get no open shots. As many times as we can have five guys in front of their five guys, we feel our defense is pretty solid and sound and we can make them miss. Transition offense is always looking for advantages — 4-on-3; 5-on-4. We try to limit that as many times as we can. … It doesn't really concern us who's guarding who, as long as somebody is guarded consistently.
“When you have good transition players, it puts the defense at a disadvantage. There are so many athletic, dynamic, skilled players in this league, and their team is made up of a lot of (those) players.”
The Rockets are taking advantage of the 50-minute flight from Houston to OKC.
Houston arrived Saturday afternoon, will return home after Sunday night's game and will come back to OKC on Tuesday afternoon for Game 2 on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Four seasons ago, the Thunder was the youngest team in the NBA playoffs when it faced the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the playoffs.
This season, Houston is the league's youngest team.
“That was an encouraging season for them,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said of the Thunder. “It showed people around the world that they were for real even though they were very young. And we're the youngest team in the NBA. I think it just shows that we can play with anybody. We just want to compete. We want to go out there and make it extremely tough for them and try to steal one in Oklahoma.
“We wouldn't want to have it any other way. Obviously, we think we're better than the (No.) 8 seed, but with the Western Conference race, (with) six through eight separated by one game, it's not as bad as it looks. But there's no better way that we wanted than to play the best team in the West and try to knock them off.”
Parsons on being young, inexperienced and the underdog against OKC: “This is where players are born. This is where guys like myself and Omer (Asik) and J-Lin (Jeremy Lin), this is where you get recognized and you really become a great player in this league, especially when you go up against a guy like Durant and Westbrook and a team as good as the Thunder. It's a statement for us. It's an automatic respect. It is very similar to when the Thunder were young.”