With the Oklahoma City Thunder trailing 0-2 in their series against the Houston Rockets, there are adjustments that will need to made if they want to get back in the series. While getting back home always has its benefits to the home team, the right adjustments will need to be made by Billy Donovan and his coaching staff.
Battle of the Boards.
If Oklahoma City is going to have a chance, they must keep the rockets off the glass. In the first game of the series, the Rockets beat OKC on the boards 56-41. Ryan Anderson, who is primarily a spot up three-point shooter, out rebounded the trio of Steven Adams, Taj Gibson and Enes Kanter by himself 12-9. In game two, the rebounds were 48-37 in favor of OKC. They need to do a better job of keeping Nene and Capela off the boards. The Thunder lead the league in rebounding during the regular season and now in the post-season where each possession is valued more, they will need that to continue.
Three point shooting.
The Rockets bread and butter this season has been their three-point shooting. With James Harden‘s ability to break down the defense, penetrate and kick out to open shooters on the wings, Houston lead the league with three-point makes. While not shooting the ball particularly well at just 33% through two games, OKC has shot the long ball at just 27% through two games. Billy Donovan may have to gamble and play Doug McDermott, despite his defensive lapses to generate some more offensive looks.
Inspired play from the role players.
At this point, we know what we are going to see out of the point guard position. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden has been the dominating narrative throughout the season. Game two was a magnificent showdown between the two as Westbrook had a triple-double with 51 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. Harden countered with 35 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists. However, outside of Westbrook, the Thunder don’t have many options.
Russell Westbrook does not have the luxury of having consistent shooters to play with, otherwise his assists totals might have been even higher. He can’t play all 48 minutes (well he could, but that wouldn’t help in the long run) and his team does not perform well without him on the court. The Thunder was up 12 late in the third quarter when Westbrook went to the bench for a rest. Within two minutes, the Rockets went on a 12-3 run to cut the deficit to 3. All while Westbrook was off the floor. That momentum carried through in the fourth quarter which ultimately swung the game in the Rockets favor.
Players such as Victor Oladipo, Gibson, and Kanter will all need to elevate their game to help alleviate the pressure on their all-star teammate. Oladipo in particular hasn’t been shooting the ball well so far in this series, scoring just 17 points total. The Thunder didn’t sign him to that massive extension for that little production when the lights are on brightest. Maybe with the excitement from the Chesapeake Energy arena fans and the passion of Westbrook will motivate the Thunder players into a game 3 victory.