Oklahoma City fought for their playoff life tonight in game five in Houston. Once again, the Thunder got off to a great start to open up the game. Russell Westbrook took a majority of the shots, and he shot very efficiently. The team played excellent defense, only allowing 16 points in the quarter. The Thunder held an eight point lead after one.
The Rockets continue to be the better team in the second quarter, and that is what has ultimately decided this series. The Thunder were outscored by 13 points after not being able to find any rhythm on offense. Westbrook was forced to the bench at the beginning of the quarter, and that is where things started to change. Houston was able to rotate the ball to find easy looks, while the Thunder was playing out of control and taking contested shots.
The Thunder continued to show improvements during the third quarter. They ended up winning the quarter by 12 points, but there were several ups and downs. Oklahoma City allowed Houston to go on too many runs. The team trailed by as many as eleven ay one point, but then Russell Westbrook took over. Westbrook started to get hot, and it seemed like he could not miss. Heading into the fourth, the Thunder had a five point lead.
Billy Donovan decided to rest Russell Westbrook for the start of the fourth quarter. That decision might be what cost the Thunder this game. Russ was hitting just about every shot he threw up before going to the bench. By the time he checked back in, the lead that the Thunder had built was gone. Westbrook was unable to make the shots he was knocking down during the third, while James Harden subtly started to take over. In the end, the Thunder just didn’t have the fire power to keep up with the Rockets.
Russell Westbrook Does All He Can
Russell Westbrook did everything he possibly could for this Thunder team, and it wasn’t enough. At some point, you gotta start feeling bad for the guy. He finished the game with 47 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. He played nearly the entire game and never slowed down while he was on the court. The Brodie carried his team throughout this game and the entire series. In the end, he couldn’t get enough help from those around him to come out on top.
The Thunder led this series for a majority of the time that Russ was in the game. It was much like this throughout the season as well. However, the team seemingly got destroyed while he was off the court. It’s not so much the scoring that carries Oklahoma City while he’s on the floor, it’s the way he controls the game. He has this amazing ability to dictate what takes place during a game. Westbrook is the best in the league at creating shots for his teammates. He is also the best in transition. His ability to grab a rebound and be to the other end of the court in a matter of seconds, makes him so valuable. Whenever he’s resting, the team simply doesn’t have anyone to be the facilitator.
Thunder Bench Not Enough This Series
At the end of the day, the Thunder could not compete with the Rockets from the top of the roster to the bottom. The depth of Houston made it nearly impossible to compete. The Rockets have nearly nine different guys averaging double-digits, while the Thunder only have four. There just wasn’t enough fire power for the second unit to hang around. If they could do a decent enough job to keep the game within reason, then the starters had a chance. However, most times the starters would check back into the game to find their lead completely gone.
Several guys were not able to play in this series due to bad match ups. Doug Mcdermott’s inability to guard the perimeter made him pretty much useless against this heavy three point shooting team in the Rockets. Having him on the bench took away another weapon that the Thunder could’ve used to find some scoring on offense.
Enes Kanter was perhaps the biggest let down this post season for the Thunder. Kanter was not physical enough to play on the offensive end. Kanter serves as more of a finesse type big man, rather than the physical type. He just wasn’t a big enough body to match up against the style of play that Nene brings to the court. This was also exposed on the defensive side of the ball. He wasn’t quick enough to help out with the guard play. It doesn’t help that he isn’t good enough at post defense to hold down the fort on the inside either. Ultimately, the Thunder were forced to bench a guy who is making $17 million dollars this year.
Next up for the Oklahoma City Thunder is team exit interviews. Every player will be given an interview, as well as head coach Billy Donovan, and general manager Sam Presti. After that, the franchise will begin evaluating itself and determine the next best move. After a rebuilding year like this, it is pretty much a guarantee to see some changes made this summer. Whatever changes might be made, the Thunder Guys will have all the coverage you need. Thanks for sticking around with us throughout this record breaking season!
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.