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Rockets would pose a serious playoff threat for Thunder

If you didn't like the way Sunday went — a 125-120 Knicks win — then Thunder-Rockets shouldn't be your playoff preference. The Rockets are Knicks Lite.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 7, 2013

The Thunder defense lapsed, Kevin Durant lost his hold on the scoring title, and the Knicks took it to the Thunder.

Knicks 125, Thunder 120.

But that's not the worst of it.

With Sunday's loss, Oklahoma City is now one game back of San Antonio in the Western Conference. The Thunder's stay atop the standings lasted less than three days, and even with five winnable games remaining, it might not be able to get back there.

That puts the Thunder on a collision course with the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.

If you didn't like the way Sunday went, Thunder-Rockets shouldn't be your playoff preference.

The Rockets are the Knicks on steroids.

Up-and-down, high-scoring teams like the Knicks and the Rockets give the Thunder fits. They don't always beat the boys in blue, but they sure do make things tough.

The Knicks did Sunday.

“Not a lot of defense out there on our part,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

The Knicks actually missed nearly 50 shots and shot worse than the Thunder, hitting only 49.5 percent of their shots to the home team's 57.7 percent. But the Thunder defense allowed the Knicks 15 3-pointers.

“They shot the ball well tonight,” Durant said. “Hit some tough shots. We forced them to take some tough ones.”

That wasn't necessarily the case with those threes, though. The Knicks had seven different players hit a three and got plenty of good looks from behind the 3-point line.

That's the type of thing that becomes concerning against a team like the Rockets come playoff time.

Like the Knicks, the Rockets play games like they are track meets, and like the Knicks, they have 3-point shooters who can catch fire. James Harden. Chandler Parsons. Carlos Delfino. Any of those guys can hit from outside in bunches.

That makes the Rockets a dangerous matchup for the Thunder.

A first-round playoff series against the Lakers doesn't pose nearly the problems for the Thunder that one against the Rockets does. Los Angeles is the likely No. 8 seed in the West — it controls its own destiny for that last playoff spot — which would be a heck of an accomplishment after the way it started the season. The Lakers have been playing well for several weeks, and if they hold off Utah and make the playoffs, they're going to come into the postseason feeling good.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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