NBA Playoffs: Breaking down the Thunder-Rockets matchups

Russell Westbrook vs. Jeremy Lin? Thabo Sefolosha vs. James Harden? Darnell Mayberry weighs in on who has the edge at each position in the Thunder-Rockets series.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 20, 2013

SIXTH MAN

KEVIN MARTIN VS. TERRENCE JONES

ANALYSIS: Martin might have only six playoff games under his belt. But that's only 13 fewer games than Jones has played. Period. The rookie out of Kentucky has been the Rockets sixth man for all of eight games. (Carlos Delfino could be considered Houston's sixth man, but Jones has been first off the bench lately so we're going with him). Jones, a versatile forward, has been solid in the role … but, ahem, he's been in it for only eight games. He's played in more D-League games this season (24) than NBA games. And now he's playing a prominent role in the playoffs.

EDGE: Martin.

PERIMETER BENCH

ANALYSIS: For the Thunder, it's Martin, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher. For the Rockets, it's Patrick Beverley, Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia. Houston's hodgepodge averaged 22.6 points for the Rockets this season. OKC's averaged 23.4. While the Thunder's crew is more versatile and more explosive, Houston has specialists who excel at helping the Rockets do what they do best. They connected on 221 3-pointers and did so while shooting a very respectable 37.6 percent from 3-point range. Fisher single-handedly gives the Thunder the edge in playoff experience. Couple that with the Rockets' trio relying so heavily on perimeter shooting and that's just too much risk to count on Houston's wing players who come off the bench consistently coming through.

EDGE: Thunder.

INTERIOR BENCH

NICK COLLISON/HASHEEM THABEET VS. TERRENCE JONES/DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS

ANALYSIS: The Rockets' duo has played a combined 63 career games. Motiejunas had been disappointing of late that he was recently benched. Meanwhile, the Thunder has one of the steadiest bench players in basketball in Collison and a backup center in Thabeet who just keeps getting better.

EDGE: Thunder.

COACHES

SCOTT BROOKS VS. KEVIN MCHALE

ANALYSIS: McHale's coaching record stands six games under .500, and he is making his first foray into the playoffs as a coach. Brooks has taken his team to the Western Conference Finals, the NBA Finals and has won 24 playoff games. Beyond experience, Brooks has the better roster and a much more reliable system, which is built on defense leading to offense as opposed to all offense all the time.

EDGE: Brooks.

HOME COURT

CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA VS. TOYOTA CENTER

ANALYSIS: This one's not even close. The Thunder has ranked ahead of the Rockets in each of the last five seasons. The Toyota Center hasn't hosted a playoff game since 2009. Houston went 29-12 at home this year. OKC went 34-7 at home. The Rockets have segments of the arena that are loud and into the game from start to finish. But they don't come close to matching the passion of the 18,000-plus that fill Chesapeake Energy Arena.

EDGE: Thunder.

MOMENTUM

ANALYSIS: Houston could have climbed as high as sixth in the standings. The Rockets fell to eighth after losing four of their final six games. Their two wins in down the stretch? A three-point home win over Phoenix that was the result of an ill-advised last-second goaltend by Suns center Jermaine O'Neal and a 21-point home win over a Sacramento team playing out the string. The Thunder went 18-7 since March 1 despite essentially conceding the last game. OKC was dominant defensively down the stretch, holding eight of its final nine opponents under 100 points.

EDGE: Thunder.

EXPERIENCE

ANALYSIS: By any measure, the Thunder has the advantage here. Oklahoma City's roster is older and has much more playoff experience. Derek Fisher, with 229 playoff games under his belt, has appeared in more postseason contests than the Rockets' entire team. The Thunder has 625 combined playoff games. The Rockets players have played a combined 133.

EDGE: Thunder.


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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