The biggest match-up of the NBA playoffs kicked off Sunday night as the Houston Rockets played host to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although Houston has an abundance of offensive firepower nothing is guaranteed in the NBA playoffs. With the top two MVP candidates squaring off the energy in the Toyota Center was sky high for this marquee match-up.
It was a tight contest from the beginning as each team got off to good starts offensively. By the end of the first the Thunder lead 29 – 27. Although he finished the first half with 18 points James Harden got off to a rough start as the game opened. OKC forward Andre Roberson did a great job of defending Harden as he held him to 3 – 11 shooting in the first half. His former teammate Westbrook also had some early struggles as he racked up five turnovers in the first half.
The physicality of this game picked up in the second half as Rockets guard Patrick Beverley was absolutely obliterated on a screen set by Steven Adams. It seemed as if this fueled Beverly as he would drill two quick threes afterwards to give Houston a 73 – 62 lead. OKC was out hustled as they had 0 second chance points compared to Houston’s 21 at the six-minute mark of the third quarter. At this point the Rockets began to take control of the game due to their red hot three-point shooting. Houston’s lead would eventually balloon to 89 – 74 by the end of the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter went on one thing became clear. James Harden came to play. He routinely toyed with defenders as he scored at will. Harden put the nail in the coffin as he led the Rockets on an eight to zero run late in the fourth quarter which brought the lead to an unsurmountable 108 – 80. Harden would eventually finish with a game high 37 points to go along with seven boards and nine assists as the Rockets cruised to a 118 – 87 victory.
Overall it was not a very inspiring performance from the Thunder. Their energy seemed to fade after halftime which ultimately symbolizes a lack of heart. The playoffs are when team’s effort levels should be at an all-time high. Apparently OKC didn’t get that memo. Houston on the other hand took care of business by protecting their home floor. If this game is any indication the Thunder’s time left in the playoffs won’t be much longer.