The Oklahoma City Thunder missed a golden opportunity on Thursday as they failed to hold on to a fourth quarter lead against the Houston Rockets in Game 2. The lead was slim at 3 points in the first minute of the final period, but nevertheless, Houston went on a big run to hold on for good before defeating OKC 111-98.
Where are Billy D’s Adjustments?
NBA Coach of the Year Finalist Billy Donovan has done a fantastic job guiding Oklahoma City through the trials of the last year, but it appears that his magic might be running out. Houston coach Mike D’Antoni has been the superior strategist through Games 1 and 2, and unless Donovan makes some adjustments, this series could be over as early as Monday.
Several times during Game 2 the Thunder struggled to find any offense, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Still, the defense was able to hold on just long enough to keep OKC in the game, and it looked as if that would be what would lead them to victory. Things took a turn for the worse in the fourth quarter, however, as the offense essentially imploded, and Houston took the opportunity to go on a 17-0 run on their way to a 14-point lead that never got closer than 8 points from that point forward.
The Rockets are a tough matchup, and a big part of that is because of their volume shooting. They’re not incredibly accurate, but when you shoot more than half of your shots from downtown, a few are bound to go in, and that’s exactly what happened in the last 11 minutes or so of the game.
In crunch time, Donovan chose so sit Luguentz Dort, who had a fantastic playoff debut defending James Harden, and instead went with 6th Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schröder. Schröder was a black hole on offense, and he’s not nearly the defender that Dort is, so it was over before anybody even realized what had happened.
Looking ahead, Donovan needs to be able to make the appropriate adjustments in a timely manner. Calling a timeout in the middle of one of the Thunder’s offensive slides would have been a golden opportunity to draw a play for an easy bucket, but we didn’t see a lot of that in Game 2. D’Antoni has been the better coach, so far, but the series isn’t over quite yet, and the outcome of Game 3 may very well depend upon Donovan’s game plan.
Dennis Schröder Needs to be Better
He’s only been back playing basketball for a week after missing six seeding games to be with his wife and new baby, but Dennis Schröder has not looked good through the first two games of the first round. OKC was on the brink of something special, and Schröder’s poor play essentially flushed the chance at a win down the toilet.
OKC led by 3 after Chris Paul made a 2 to kick off the fourth quarter, but Schröder missed 3 consecutive shots and turned it over once in the next 4 minutes as Houston built a 91-80 lead with a little over 7 minutes left in the game. Schröder checked out for a brief moment after that, but the game was basically over at that point as the Thunder could not recover.
It’s tough to be out of the game for a couple of weeks and then come back and jump straight into the playoffs essentially, but he’s got to be better and get back to playing at a high level like he can, or else the Thunder is cooked in this series.
Thunder Player of the Game
After a terrible Game 1, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander bounced back with quite the performance in Game 2. SGA finished with a game-high 31 points on 9-of-17 (52.9%) from the floor, including 3-of-7 (42.9%), and 10-of-11 (90.9%) from the free throw line. He also had 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
It’s going to take another big performance from Gilgeous-Alexander on Saturday if the Thunder wants to finally pick up a win, but based on how comfortable he looked attacking the basket in Game 2, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Saturday Night’s Alright
The Oklahoma City Thunder gets one day off before Game 3, and this one should be considered a must-win. The Thunder has recovered from a 2-0 series deficit once before against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, but it’s going to be a terribly tough task to repeat that type of comeback against Houston.
Tip-off for Game 3 is set for 5 PM CT, and it will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.