Houston was 1-6 in this building the past three years. OKC was 11-1 in playoff games in this building the past two years. So understandably, even without Russell Westbrook, the Rockets entered as heavy underdogs (nine points in Vegas). To win, it felt like they had to shoot lights out from deep and get a transcendent performance from James Harden. They did and the Beard delivered, leading an offensive attack that produced 14 threes, with seven of them from Harden’s hands. And you could tell early on…
It was over when…
…Scott Brooks went with a desperation tactic midway through the fourth, employing the Hack-a-Omer-Asik, and it didn’t work. The Rockets center was fouled intentionally on six consecutive possessions and made seven of his 12 free throws. Not perfect, but enough to push the lead forward, frustrate the crowd and make Brooks look like a coach with no trust in a defense he’s lauded all season. OKC hung in there, but never really threatened in the fourth.
Star of the game – James Harden
Harden was 5/25 from three combined in the first four games of this series. He was 7/9 on Wednesday night. Talk about a change. He went from liability (a career-high 10 turnovers in Game 4) to hero mode, icing his old team with cold-blooded dagger after cold-blooded dagger.
Durant on an island
KD went 0/6 in a scoreless fourth quarter. On the surface, in this type of game, those numbers seem inexcusable. But he was tired, and understandably so, playing 45 of the game’s 48 minutes and shouldering an unhealthy burden of the offensive load, scoring or assisting on 53 of the Thunder’s 100 points. He’s on an island, but still playing incredible (23/39 shooting for 74 points the past two games). To move forward he needs far more help.
Stats of note
-Kevin Martin was 1/10 on Wednesday night and is now shooting 17/56 (30 percent) in the series. Struuuuuuuuggling.
-Francisco Garcia and Harden went a combined 12/21 from three. The Thunder went 8/33 as a team. Ballgame.
-Nick Collison went 3/3 in seven productive minutes, but didn’t get off the bench in the second half.
Probably the highlight of the night for Thunder fans. Russell Westbrook was introduced on the big screen to a rousing ovation and then, minutes later, Reggie Jackson defended his honor (in a strange way), pulling the same move Patrick Beverley did to hurt Westbrook back on Beverley. And it ended up getting a reactive Beverley a technical.
Game 6 is in Houston on Saturday night. Needless to say, it’s a big one.