In the third quarter, the Rockets quit jacking up so many deep shots and started driving the ball. The Thunder did not respond. At least not initially.
“We said we wanted to attack the paint,” said Houston coach Kevin McHale. “But we're going to need this type of effort up in Oklahoma.”
By the fourth quarter, the Thunder was playing big-time defense again — Houston scored just 14 points in the final period and made just five of 14 shots. The Rockets committed eight turnovers in the final quarter.
That's the way the Thunder must win now. Its defense has to be elite. Supreme. Westbrook is gone. He no longer can bail out the Thunder when Durant is off or surrounded by an angry mob of defenders.
You can't ask Durant to be a magician every night, every final minute. The Rockets would have run all five guys at Durant if necessary and seemed to in the final play.
Brooks blamed the breakdown on a Durant fumble, but the Rockets were determined to make someone else beat them after Durant's three-bounce 3-pointer that determined Game 3.
“After what happened last game with that lucky bounce, we didn't want to give him any chances,” said Rocket Chandler Parsons.
And if the Houstons can do it with their limited defenders, what can the sabertooths of Memphis do?
Thus the Thunder's defense has to be 48 minutes of stinginess. There's no other way for OKC to win in these playoffs.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.