WESTBROOK MAKES HISTORY (AGAIN)
Even in the loss, Russell Westbrook made history yet again, becoming the first NBA player ever to notch a 50 point triple-double in the postseason, finishing with 51 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists. While some will point to his less than stellar fourth quarter performance in which he only shot 4-of-18 from the field, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that without #0, Oklahoma City wouldn’t have been in that game. In crunch time Westbrook forced some questionable shots, but at the same time it was obvious that none of the other players on the court for Oklahoma City wanted to hoist up any important shots, and his supporting cast to this point in the series hasn’t proven their ability to hold up their end offensively.
GUARDING JAMES HARDEN
Overall, I thought Oklahoma City’s plan of attack towards Harden in game two was much better than game one. To begin with, Andre Roberson shadowed Harden all game, literally. If Harden went to the bench, so did Roberson. Roberson did a good job of ramping up the on-ball pressure towards Harden tonight, sometimes even picking him up full court on defense. The Thunder also ditched the plan of switching all pick-and-rolls with Harden, a strategy that put Oklahoma City’s big men in multiple mismatches guarding Harden one-on-one on Sunday. Instead, Oklahoma City had their big men hedge the pick-and-roll screen, allowing Roberson time to fight over the screen in order to continue to stay on the bearded assassin. Overall, the strategy and plan of attack was better on Oklahoma City’s end, but Harden still made himself known offensively finishing with 35 points and eights assists on 7-of-17 shooting from the field. 18 of Harden’s 35 points came from the free throw line.
Kyle Singler played 10 minutes in Oklahoma City’s loss tonight. I repeat, Kyle Singler played 10 minutes tonight. I am still baffled by this, considering Singler wasn’t even suited out Sunday evening for game one. How someone goes from street clothes to playing important fourth quarter minutes I don’t understand. He finished 0-for-1 from the field with a rebound, two fouls, and a broken ankle on a James Harden drive to the bucket. Other than that, things went well for him.
BENCH STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Oklahoma City’s bench has been atrocious to this point in the series, putting together another poor performance tonight. Not a single bench player had a positive plus minus from tonight’s game, and Jerami Grant took the crown for the greatest negative deficit at -20. The lone bright spot off the bench was Doug McDermott, who shot 4-of-5 from the field and had 11 points. However, McDermott only played 13 minutes, so his impact was minimal in the outcome of the game. Enes Kanter continued to prove this Rockets team is his kryptonite, finishing with four points and one rebound in only seven minutes of play. Kanter has been the anchor of the second unit offensively for Oklahoma City all season long, but his defensive ineptitude has put Billy Donovan in a tough spot so far this series, making it hard to give him consistent minutes.
While the crowd noise and intensity was playoff-like at the end, at tip-off anyone tuning into this game would think it was just another regular season NBA game. Lots of seats remained empty until midway through the first quarter, and I think the lackadaisical mood had something to do with the Rockets slow start. The consistency of Oklahoma City’s home crowds can get taken for granted sometimes, and Wednesday night’s game reminded me just how rare the fans of Oklahoma City are. Being in their seats at tip-off, and standing until the first Thunder bucket goes in are just a few things that sometimes can be taken for granted by Oklahoma City Thunder fans, and it shouldn’t be.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!