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Rockets 105, Thunder 103

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 30, 2013 at 11:10 am •  Published: April 30, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s Game 4 loss at Houston.

  • Kendrick Perkins threw a bad pass, Thabo Sefolosha threw a bad pass and Perk set an illegal screen. Three Thunder turnovers. Five trips up the court. That was the start of the game for OKC. The night never got much better in terms of taking care of the ball.
  • The Thunder finished with 22 turnovers. They led to 31 Rockets points.
  • Houston had 22 turnovers as well.
  • Omer Asik went straight up on Reggie Jackson’s final attempt. Yes, there was a ton of contact. But the refs made the right call in not making a call. They rewarded the Rockets center for good defense.
  • Serge Ibaka has got to make that stick-back. Period.
  • Let’s see. The Rockets were without Jeremy Lin, got a stinker from James Harden and trailed by 13 late in the second quarter. The Thunder should have won this game.
  • Harden had just 15 points and turned it over 10 times.
  • After Perkins picked up his second foul nearly three minutes in, DeAndre Liggins came off the bench and did what he does. He provided great energy, solid defense on Chandler Parsons, some quality work on the defensive boards and even hit a 3-pointer.
  • Check my math here. But. The Thunder’s starting lineup tonight was outscored 31-14. Every other Thunder lineup outscored the Rockets 89-74. Pretty pivotal nine minutes by the Thunder’s starters.
  • The Rockets made 12 of 17 shots on the Thunder’s starters.
  • Yet for some reason the Thunder’s starting lineup played the most minutes of any unit.
  • Houston outscored OKC 38-24 in the third quarter.
  • The Rockets started the third on a 10-0 run. It came on the heels of an 8-2 run to end the first half.
  • Carlos Delfino’s strip on Durant as he brought the ball up the court and his ensuing 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in the first half can’t happen. Not both of those things back-to-back.
  • Delfino later had the play of the series when, with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter, he striped Kevin Martin nearmid-court, streaked the other way and put Kevin Durant on a poster for a three-point play. Not only was the sequence unlikely, but it also was significant. The play capped a 12-2 Rockets run.
  • Durant played a great game. He splashed in incredibly difficult shots, rising above the defense and knocking them down in what felt like defiance in the face of Houston’s defense. He did so with great efficiency, making 12 of 16. He earned trips to the foul line, where he made 13 of 15. And he rebounded (eight) and set up his teammates throughout the game, finishing with six assists.
  • Durant received the six minutes of rest Scott Brooks promised. Durant played “only” 42 minutes tonight.
  • What killed me about Durant’s game was his turnovers. He had seven of the team’s 22. It’s something that continues to plague him, and he’s got to get it fixed. He just isn’t strong with the ball, whether he’s on the move or setting up his man while in a stationary position. He gets striped too easily and fumbles the ball away far too much. It’s been six years and we’re still waiting on Durant to figure out a solution.
  • Another thing that gave Durant trouble was Houston’s physicality. Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia bodied up on Durant all night, crowding him, forcing him out to the 3-point line and making all of his catches tough. Whenever KD did catch the ball, Houston’s entire defense was loaded up looking to stop him, either daring him to drive into a crowd or forcing him to settle for a jumper or find the open man. Without Westbrook around, the Rockets are showing the rest of the Thunder’s roster no respect.
  • Because of the way Houston is playing Durant, the Thunder is going to have to spread the court with shooters. Anyone who can’t make a 3-pointer or a mid-range shot with any sort of consistency is now a hindrance to the offensive execution.
  • Brooks should throw Jeremy Lamb out there. See if he can loosen up that Rockets D.
  • Wouldn’t mind seeing a lineup of Reggie, Jeremy, Kevin Martin, Durant and Ibaka.
  • A Reggie, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, KD, Ibaka unit would rank second.
  • The best lineup tonight: Reggie, Fish, K-Mart, KD and Nick Collison. That unit was a plus-8 but played only 4 1/2 minutes together.
  • Ibaka ran a beautiful two-man game with K-Mart with a minute left in the opening quarter. It was all set up by Ibaka, as he read and reacted to the defense, directing toward him and then around him before K-Mart wound up in perfect position for an over-the-top pass in stride to the cup. Not used to seeing that kind of thing out of Ibaka but wouldn’t mind seeing more.
  • Ibaka played all 12 minutes of the first quarter which, given how he beat up the Rockets on the boards in Game 3, didn’t seem like a bad idea at all. Only downside was Ibaka wasn’t nearly as dominant tonight and it delayed Collison’s entry.
  • Fisher stepped up. He supplied some much-needed shooting in the first half, sinking all three of this 3s.
  • Houston hadn’t made more than 33 percent of its 3s in any of the first three games. The Rockets made five of nine from downtown in the opening quarter.
  • More on those turnovers. The Thunder had as many turnovers (eight) in the first frame as made field goals.
  • Loved Durant’s hustle tonight. He dove on the floor twice for loose balls. The first time, he dove into the crowd.
  • This was not a good night for Perk. In fact, it was a terrible night. I think he’d be the first to say it.
  • K-Mart’s first half: 14 points, 4-for-9 shooting.
  • K-Mart’s second half: two points, 1-for-2 shooting.
  • How much does the Thunder miss Russell Westbrook? In the last two games, OKC has scored a total of 15 fast break points. Fifteen! This coming from a team that has averaged 16.6 fast break points this season, fifth most in the league. In the first two games, the Thunder scored 45 points in transition. The team had 21 in Game 2 alone. Brooks has made it a point to slow down the offense, but the Thunder either is no longer getting as many opportunities or simply turning them down. In each of the past two games, the Thunder has had just four fast break opportunities. After two nip-and-tuck affairs perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Instead of slowing the game down, maybe the best way for the Thunder to overcome Westbrook’s absence is to speed the game even more. Shift it into overdrive and stop putting so much additional pressure on role players to perform in halfcourt sets that, historically, haven’t been the Thunder’s strong suit even when healthy.
  • Another idea. Couple this one with that preferred lineup from above. Throw the best shooters out there and put Durant in the post. Welcome the Rockets’ double teams and let Durant chew up the defense by passing out to shooters and cutters all night. If the Rockets dare play Durant straight up, let him chew ‘em up himself. Either way, both options might beat relying on herculean performances from Durant for however long this series might last.
  • Up next. Game 5 on Wednesday.

-DM-

 

 

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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