Only a flesh wound

For 48 minutes, anyway, the Thunder learned what will work against Houston, and the answer, apparently, is “Not a damn thing.” Early on, they managed to hold off the Rockets’ three-point attack; Houston duly went down the middle toward the rim. Eventually Houston’s prowess from outside returned, and with OKC having gone from two up after the first quarter to fifteen down after the third, well, let’s say a lot of the reserves saw some unexpected minutes. You can compare lines between Russell Westbrook (22-11-7) and James Harden (37-7-9), but the really scary line for Thunder fans will be Patrick Beverley’s (21-10-3). Areas where OKC normally excels — points in the paint (62-38), rebounds (56-41) — went totally south. And look at this: the Rockets took 10 more shots than the Thunder (91-81), but made 15 more (45-30). In light of these collapses, it’s probably surprising that Houston won this one by a mere thirty-one: the other three first-round games were decided by a total 23. With a 118-87 defeat hung on them, the Thunder are going to have to do some serious soul-searching between now and Wednesday.

Marginally bright spot: Andre Roberson came up with 18 points on 7-10 shooting with seven rebounds. And that’s about it. At the other extreme, Victor Oladipo went 1-12 for a whole six points. This was a thrashing in the behind-the-woodshed sense of the word, and I can’t blame the Rockets for wanting to celebrate it.

There are a lot of calculations that will come out of this game, and the one I want to see is the one that explains how the Thunder got 29 points in the first twelve minutes and 33 points in the last 24. They were no worse than the Rockets on the three-ball (9-29 versus 10-33), but they weren’t making the inside shots worth a darn. If this doesn’t improve … well, you know the rules as much as I do.

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