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Rockets 107, Thunder 100

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: May 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm •  Published: May 2, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s Game 5 loss to the Rockets.

  • Russell Westbrook is great. He ain’t Michael Jordan.
  • Point being, there’s no excuse for what we witnessed tonight. Period.
  • Even without Westbrook, the Thunder’s roster still ranks, what, in the top five in the league in talent? The cupboard is far from bare. But it sure looked that way in this one.
  • Most alarming was the Thunder’s inability to defend. It’s that end of the court that cost the Thunder this game. And that’s why Westbrook’s absence can’t be used as an excuse. While he impacted that end in various ways, he was erratic and was far more of a threat on offense.
  • The Thunder gave up 107 points, allowed 47 percent shooting, 40 percent from 3-point range, yielded two 30-point guards and trailed by as many as 16 points.
  • Oklahoma City’s biggest lead: 1.
  • Houston has gotten hot from 3-point range, which going into this series was the Thunder’s worst nightmare. As simply as it sounds, Houston’s hot shooting is what has threatened to flip this series.
  • In the last two games, the Rockets have made 26 of 62 3-pointers, a 41.9 percent clip.
  • The Rockets made just 28 percent of their 3-point tries in the first three games of this series.
  • “The basket’s getting wider for them every game,” said Kevin Durant.
  • “We were due for a couple of 40 percent shooting nights from the 3-point line,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
  • The Thunder’s problem, not just tonight but for this entire series, is it is succumbing to Houston’s style. First, the Thunder aborted its biggest advantage, size, and now the Thunder is in a full-blown 3-point contest.
  • The Thunder attempted 33 3-pointers Wednesday, making only eight, a 24.2 percent night. It’s the second time in this series that the Thunder has hoisted at least 30 3-pointers.
  • In five games, the Thunder has now attempted 28.6 3s on average.
  • In the regular season, the Thunder averaged only 19.4.
  • “They’re giving us opportunities,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “They’re loading up the paint and we have to be able to knock some of those down. But we also have to be able to take it to the basket and get to the paint.”
  • The 3-point shooting is a direct result of not having Westbrook. The fast-break opportunities have vanished, the attacks on the basket are few and far between and the Rockets defense is now allowed to load up on Durant and dare marginal 3-point shooting threats to burn them. And they’re not.
  • This was James Harden’s flu game.
  • Harden was unbelievable. He made his first seven 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 31 points.
  • I’d like to go back and watch this game just to see how many times the Thunder double teamed Harden. I’d bet I can count on one hand how many times OKC did.
  • Of course, the problem with doubling Harden is he’s such a tremendous passer that there’s a good chance he’ll find the open man. Still, you’ve got to make that dude play under duress. Can’t let him just size you up then chew you up.
  • Reggie Jackson Patrick Beverleyed Patrick Beverley. It was awesome. Jackson reached in on Beverley as he began to call for a timeout with 5:40 remaining in the opening quarter. Beverley took exception and threw a chicken wing Jackson’s way. Beverley was T’d up.
  • Right before the end of that timeout, the Thunder showed Westbrook sitting in a suite on the big screen. Westbrook got a standing ovation. Nice moment.
  • McHale, right before entering his postgame press conference, stopped short and yelled to Westbrook as he walked down the hall on crutches. McHale then walked over and said he was sorry that the play that ended Westbrook’s season happened. McHale wished Westbrook well and a speedy recovery. He also told Westbrook that he’s loved his game ever since scouting those UCLA teams he played on alongside Kevin Love. Westbrook looked genuinely appreciative.
  • It is utterly unbelievable how the Thunder cannot take advantage of the Rockets inside.
  • DeAndre Liggins checked in with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter. He replaced Durant and immediately dominated defensively. Liggins started off on Harden and allowed only one bucket, a tough baseline flick.  And when the second quarter began Liggins started off on Chandler Parsons before switching to Aaron Brooks, then Beverley, and then Harden again. It might not have come across on television, but Liggins was talking smack to Harden on and off on those possessions, appearing to attempt to get in his head as he bodied up and played physical.
  • Liggins grabbed two rebounds, had an assist and also blocked a shot.
  • Liggins’ lone assist was amazing. With Harden guarding him in the right corner but sagging off, Liggins knew better than to jack a 3. He instead called for a Serge Ibaka screen. As Ibaka set it to Liggins’ left, Liggins blew by Harden baseline. When he reached the basket and jumped as if he would attempt a reverse layup, Liggins drew the defense before passing around the help defender’s back at the last moment. Ibaka caught the pass and got an uncontested dunk. It happened with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
  • Nick Collison provided some great energy and hustle plays early. In the first half, he got two tip-ins, made a nice strong drive to the cup for a layup, blocked a layup by Brooks and was great in help defense, rotating to contest shots when teammates were beat. He had six points, two boards and two blocked shots in six minutes, 32 seconds in the first half.
  • Collison didn’t play again.
  • Brooks: “We had to go a little smaller than we normally do because they were playing four guards. And I thought Perk gave us our best defense on (Omer) Asik just for the first six or seven minutes of that third quarter and then Serge came in. And then we cut the lead. And then you have to go with one guy. But Nick has been great. He’s one of our glue guys that I believe in. But the way they play, it’s hard to play three big guys. Normally we play four big guys. But it’s something that we will consider moving into the next game.”
  • Asked if he wishes he would have played Collison more Brooks then responded “No. I wish we would have got stops. We played against a team that made 14 3s on us. I mean, Nick’s a great player for us but he’s not going to guard 3-point shooters and help us stop that.”
  • Can’t say I had a big problem with Collison not getting second-half run. That was probably 14 on my list of head-scratchers. Also didn’t mind Kendrick Perkins being in the game. So many people were blowing up my Twitter timeline with questions about why Perk was in the game. But his defense on Asik has been valuable in this series. He’s limited Asik’s rebounding, held him in check as a roll man and completely shut down any low-post offense Asik might provide the Rockets. And frankly, nobody else on the Thunder can deal with Asik. Not even Collison.
  • I was impressed with Jackson’s on-ball defense tonight. Sure he got beat to the basket a few times. Anybody would against Beverley and Brooks. But Jackson stayed in front of his man and stuck with plays more often than not. Two times he came up with tremendous blocks on his man.
  • Watching Durant tonight was like watching Chris Paul last night. KD had to do everything on the offensive end. And that’s a losing recipe.
  • If we learned anything about this team this season it’s that the Thunder needs more offensive-minded players. AND A SYSTEM, but that’s a story for another day. What the Thunder has tried to do is flank two of the league’s best scorers with a ton of defensive-minded players. That, AND THE LACK OF A SYSTEM, has proven to work great in the regular season. But in the playoffs, it’s quickly, if not having long been, evident that it’s not enough. The Thunder needs shooters to make opposing defenses pay. Look at Miami. The Heat surrounds Bron, Wade and Bosh with shooters. Sag off them and you’ll be sorry. Sag off against the Thunder at the right time and there’s limited options for making you pay.
  • Up next. Game 6 from Houston on Friday at 8:30 p.m.

-DM-

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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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