She asked, and I answered:
@HotDogOKC It won't be as bad as the last one, but it won't be a win either. Houston 115, OKC 111.
— Charles G Hill (@dustbury) April 20, 2017
I figured I’d screwed up royally, once the Thunder really got going, leaving the Rockets behind by as many as fifteen. And then OKC let it slip away: with just over eight minutes left, Houston blasted their way to their first lead, and the Thunder’s collapse was, if not epic, certainly difficult to watch. At the 3:16 mark, there was a tie, and there was still a chance. Then Houston rolled up ten unanswered points, and the writing was on the Toyota Center wall. With 1.9 seconds left, the score was, yes, Houston 115, OKC 111, and James Harden obliged me by missing his last two free throws.
Harden was, if not heroic, certainly capable: he shot an okay 7-17, but he made his first 18 free throws before flubbing the last two. Aside from The Beard, most of the Houston offense came from the reserves: Eric Gordon with 22, Lou Williams with 21, and Nené with 7. That’s it: Mike D’Antoni played only eight men. The weird part of this is that the top plus/minus guys, at +18, were Williams and, um, Steven Adams, who fouled out in the fourth. Mention must be made of Patrick Beverley, who got 15 points and two shots to Russell Westbrook’s head. (Neither foul was ruled flagrant.)
Westbrook, in the meantime — well, yeah, he had 51 points, a playoff record, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. The jaundiced eye will look past the triple-double and note that His Zeroness shot 17-43. That’s forty-three shots. The rest of the team went 23-54, which is marginally better, but 41 percent doesn’t make it in the playoffs, especially if your #2 scorer is Andre Roberson, who squeezed out 12 points. Then again, you’ve got Doug McDermott, who led the bench with 11 points in 14 minutes, and you start asking yourself why McBuckets is out there for only 14 minutes.
Friday in the friendly confines of Chesapeake. Drop one of these, and it’s pretty much all over. (Drop two of these, and it’s literally all over.) It’s too early for me to make any predictions, and anyway, since when I was right about anything? (See above.)