A storm is coming Mr. Harden, you and your three-point shooters better load up on rocket fuel.
That storms name is Thunder guard, and MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook.
The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Houston Rockets tonight 115-111, and have now fallen to 0-2 in the series. Regardless of record, the amount of effort displayed by this young (and somewhat empty) Thunder squad in Game 2 was unbelievable. My key takeaways:
Andre Roberson, an X Factor?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself since watching the first game. Roberson was all but nonexistent offensively in the regular season, but has come up clutch in multiple occasions already this series. Through the first two games, Roberson has collected: 30 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 steals. This doesn’t even touch upon his incredible effort with guarding Harden (who went 2-7 in the first half). Whatever they’re running with Roberson is working. Whether it’s the lineups, the plays, or simply luck. Keep it going.
Valuing Westbrook’s Minutes
is a huge issue for the Thunder. I know the ritual is a break from late first to early second, and the same in third and fourth, but you’re fighting for your life here. If you’ve mounted a fifteen-point lead, Westbrook needs to stay in, and stretch that as far as possible. Taking minutes from the back end and shoving them frontward doesn’t sound conventional, but I can see some success developing through this effort.
Westbrook Needs to Trust
his squad, his teammates. It’s so much easier to shoot your own shot, especially when you’re as streaky as our favorite Thunder star, but don’t. In the fourth quarter, Westbrook went 4-18! There’s no way in four to five of those fourteen extra shots they didn’t have time to reset and find someone else for an open look. This is the playoffs, it’s a different ball game Russ. Doug, Taj, Jerami Grant; they can all make open looks. Trust.
It’s Not Over
until it’s over, as the great Rocky Balboa said. The Thunder may be down 0-2, but we’ve learned that you can’t count them out. OKC plays their best ball at home, and the Rockets are in their house now. I’m expecting a full blown Russ show next game, except this one ends in a W.
The Thunder Are Improving
slowly but surely. They are a young team with a fearless leader, and some of them don’t even have playoff experience. After getting blown out in Game 1, they completely bounced back for a last second four-point loss in Game 2. They improved their rebounding, therefore scoring more second chance points than Houston. It’s a loss, but if there is one, this is a positive one. The more they play, the more they learn. You can say the same for Houston, but OKC came into this as the underdog.
This is the playoffs, a land of infinite possibilities. Thunder Up.