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5 Thoughts: Let’s talk about Taj Mahal

The Oklahoma City Thunder struck back with vengeance after their 115-113 to pull within 2-1 in the first round against the Houston Rockets. While we wait for Game 4, here are my five thoughts on Game 3’s win:

TAJ GIBSON THRIVED

Taj Gibson barely played it seemed in Game 2 after a solid start from the former Bull. However, Billy Donovan adjusted and played Gibson a lot more, 29 minutes to be exact, and it paid off. He was 10-of-13 for 20 points and he pulled down two rebounds. His ability to post up in the third quarter brought Nene back in and forced a sharp shooter like Ryan Anderson out of the game. Gibson was a ball of energy and honestly appeared to be playing pissed off. His playoff savvy leadership showed as he was a catalyst for the first quarter run. Donovan then used Gibson at the five, forcing the Rockets to go super small and the Thunder feasted on their soft defense in this moment.

BILLY D MAKING MOVES AND NOT OVERREACTING

The cat-and-mouse game between Donovan and D’Antoni continues to go back-and-forth. Donovan also shortened his rotation, some what. Instead of playing 12-13 players as did in Game 2, it was down to 10 players. Instead of Christon, who is by far and away the better defender over Norris Cole, was inactive. Kyle Singler, who’s an offensive black hole but can play some quality defense, was also inactive. This opened the door for Doug McDermott and Alex Abrines to shine. They were nice from deep tonight as they combined for 4-of-9 from three-point line and Oklahoma City hit nine threes. It started with the offensive adjustment, instead of trying to defend…

QUALITY DEFENSE BY THE THUNDER

That said, Oklahoma City essentially shut the Rockets out from three. Houston was only 10-of-35 from deep. James Harden was no different, he was only 4-of-12. Oklahoma City closed out on shooters. They did not allow many wide open threes. Another thing to be watching for the Rockets is the distance within their threes. Most of their threes tonight, came near the line, but throughout the regular seaosn, their attempts came 2-3 feet BEHIND the arc. So, missing long or short. Over adjusting throughout the game. When the Thunder are almost equal in makes, they should really run away with this one but…

BAD OFFICIATING

The officiating was horribly inconsistent. I officiate at the high school level, so it’s hard for me to berate and not understand why something was called or understand their angles are better than ours. That said, the NBA needs to address the three-point fouling issue. Harden has something working for him and it’s eerily similiar to what Kevin Durant had with his rip move. The NBA ruled it a non-shooting foul and that’s probably what they need to do with Harden’s throwing up a three anytime there’s remote contact. I’m not necessarily disagreeing that he’s fouled. I don’t feel he’s in the shooting motion.

ANDRE ROBERSON IS GOING TO GET PAID

Sure, Harden has scored a ton of points in this series. It seems most of that has come at the free throw line. 49 of his 116 points have come at the free throw line. However, Roberson is making him work for every single bucket. While Harden is shooting 47 percent for the series, Harden must go home, drink a cold beer and just can’t wait until the series is over because Roberson probably goes to the bathroom when he goes. He probably gets popcorn when Harden does. Oklahoma City is will have to spend a lot of money to keep Dre this summer but elite defenders are hard to come by when you’re trying to compete for championship. If he continues to turn Playoff Dre into a regular season thing, you HAVE to pay him.

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