The Oklahoma City Thunder eliminated by the Houston Rockets 4-1 in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Here are some keys to the game.
Oklahoma City fouled Houston while shooting a three-pointer 13 times in the series. Houston has officially mastered the art of drawing contact off a screen while shooting from long distance, an art that had Thunder fans enraged by the end of the series. Similar to the rip move patented by Kevin Durant, the NBA has to get a grip on this move before it takes over the entire league.
Russell Westbrook went on a tear in the third quarter, almost single-handedly catapulting the Thunder to a five point lead after having trailed at halftime by seven.
Oklahoma City went on a 27-11 run to end the third quarter, giving them a five point lead heading into the final period behind the offensive outburst from Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City had Houston on their heels to end the third quarter after a lackluster start from the Boys in Blue to begin the second half.
Houston went on a 14-4 run to begin the fourth quarter to take the lead 86-81 with Russell Westbrook on the bench, capped off by a three-pointer Lou Williams shot all the way from nearby Spring, Texas. This was the turning point of the game, completely shifting momentum on the side of the Rockets. This stretch further reiterated the growing narrative that Oklahoma City can’t operate with Westbrook on the bench.
Oklahoma City was -16 without Westbrook on the floor in game 5, a problem that persisted throughout the entire series. To begin the fourth quarter, Billy Donovan decided to give Westbrook a breather, which resulted in a three-minute stretch in which Oklahoma City was -10. In the end, games two, three, four, and five, were lost in stretches without Westbrook on the floor.
Andre Roberson had a very good series overall, but his performance will be overshadowed by his dreadful free-throw shooting. Finishing 3-for-21 on the series, including 2-for-13 in game four, Roberson’s struggles from the charity stripe were magnified when the Rockets began the hack-a-Roberson tactic to halt Oklahoma City’s offense in game four.
Enes Kanter only played three minutes in game five. For someone who’s being paid 17 million dollars per year, that’s an extremely low number, especially in an elimination playoff game. Kanter struggled for the entirety of the series, and after this performance it’s safe to say that his future with Oklahoma City is up in the air. The Thunder can’t afford to be paying a player that much money that can’t even touch the floor against certain teams.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!