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Thunder eliminated by Rockets in 5 games

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The Oklahoma City Thunder’s season comes to an end, after losing game five to the Houston Rockets, 105-99. Russell Westbrook did everything humanly possible to will his team to victory, but it just wasn’t happening.

It was the same story, different game. Westbrook put the team on his back, get out to an early lead, but just not enough help from his teammates when he was on the bench to put the team in the win category.

Westbrook had an insane third quarter rally, putting up 20 points, and getting the Thunder back in the lead by five at the end of the third quarter.

But as Westbrook watched from the bench, Oklahoma City quickly blew the lead. Just as they did early in the second quarter, the Thunder without Westbrook blew another lead and were absolutely horrendous with him off the floor. The story of the game, which has been the case all series and all season, was Oklahoma City getting outscored by 16 with Russell on the bench.

The most disappointing part was Thunder’s second best player in Victor Oladipo who played maybe his worst game tonight, in a series where he struggled heavily, especially on the road. He finished the night hitting just four of his 17 attempted shots, with no assists and two turnovers. Oladipo shot 33 percent from the floor this series, and 24 percent from three-point land.

Another disappointing aspect was Oklahoma City seemingly giving up at times. Houston looked more like the team fighting for their playoff lives, rather than the Thunder. The Rockets won the 50/50 battles all night. Billy Donovan even touched on this in post game saying, “Where we got hurt in this series is on the glass, second chance points and at the free throw line.”

Despite that though, Westbrook battled the whole way. He finished with 47 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Another huge stat line, but he was definitely gassed by the fourth quarter. Russell was the best player in the clutch this season, but it is hard to duplicate that in the playoffs with so many minutes and having to do everything. The fatigue sets in. He finished with a really tiring of 42 minutes played.

“What he has done this year, is historic,” Billy Donovan said of Westbrook’s season.

Houston shot the worst from the three-point line tonight than they have all series. The Rockets hit only six of their 37 attempts. They made up for it with second chance points, and at the free throw line where they made 33 of their 39 tries.

Oklahoma City did get some nice minutes from their bench players in Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant. They combined for 22 points and were solid defensively. McDermott, who played 13 minutes, did not score but was a nice surprise on the defensive end. Enes Kanter only saw the court for three minutes, and was just unplayable like he was in the first four games.

This is the first time Oklahoma City has been eliminated in the first round since their playoff debut in 2010 when the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated them in six games.

After the game, Billy Donovan said, “I couldn’t be any prouder of the way our guys competed tonight.”

“I consider it a good season, for myself to every guy in that locker room,” Westbrook said postgame.

Taj Gibson was asked about his future plans, with his contract ending. “The goal is to stay [in Oklahoma City]”, which is something the Thunder front office will definitely like to hear.

Looking ahead, the off-season holds a lot of questions for the Thunder organization and what moves they will make. They have an insanely great superstar in Westbrook to build around, who is also willing to do anything to get his team wins. Until then, it is important to not take for granted what Russell did this season and the show he put on every night.

Keys to the game

Bench production: C

Oklahoma City only really played an eight man rotation, with Abrines, Grant and McDermott coming off the bench. For the guys who did play, they were solid but just can’t do it without Westbrook on the floor. As a second unit and Oladipo leading at point guard, they were horrid.

REBOUND: D

Even though the Thunder did win the rebounding battle, they gave up way too many second chance points to the Rockets. They got out-hustled at times, which is something that just cannot happen when you are on the brink of elimination.

Finish: F

Once again, Westbrook did not get enough help, and just did not have enough in the tank in the fourth quarter. This game was similar to the last four, with Oklahoma City jumping out to an early lead, then blowing it in the crunch time. It was the total opposite, as the Thunder were great in the clutch.

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