Oklahoma City fell in a 3-1 hole after its 113-109 loss to Houston in Game 4 of the Western Conference first round Sunday. Here’s five thoughts on the game.
Roberson was good, then not so good
Andre Roberson played like a player who is going to make $20 million in the offseason, and it all whittled away late in the fourth quarter. Roberson had five blocks in the first half, tying Serge Ibaka’s Thunder record for most in a playoff game. He made a 3-pointer and stifled James Harden to six points on 2-of-10 shooting in the first half. But in the fourth quarter, Roberson was a liability more than a 1st team All-Defense player. Roberson was fouled three straight possessions while OKC was in the bonus. He made 2-of-6 from the line. He was 2-of-12 in the game. Roberson is as good as it gets on defense, but his offense is offensive. A shooting guard who can’t shoot free throws, and Houston took advantage of it.
OKC doesn’t want it enough inside
Steven Adams, Taj Gibson and Enes Kanter have been dominated on the glass and in the paint for most of the series. Sunday, Nene scored 28 points on 12-of-12 shooting in 25 minutes. Nene, who’s unofficially as old as Adams and Kanter ages combined, took the trio of Thunder bigs to school like it was 2005. Although Adams scored 18 points and had three blocks, Nene dominated on the offensive end and controlled the game for Houston when he was in. Kanter was again ineffective, scoring two points on 1-of-5 shooting. A game after scoring 20 points and dominating all facets of the game, Gibson scored six points on 2-of-5 shooting. Gibson was key in OKC’s victory Friday night, scoring 12 points in the first quarter and Sunday was ineffective, again. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Westbrook needs help (duh?)
Westbrook has his third straight triple double of the series. He’s also the first player in NBA history to have three straight 30-point triple doubles in the playoffs. 35-14-14 wasn’t enough, though. The other four starters scored 42 points and the bench scored 22. Houston’s bench scored 64. Jerami Grant was the leading scorer off the bench with 10 points. Westbrook’s needs help to win playoff games and he took his frustrations out in postgame on The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel. Westbrook defending his teammates is incredible and it can translate to the teams performance on the court. Although Westbrook doesn’t want to throw his teammates under the bus, it’s hard to win when you’re putting up some of the best numbers of all time and you can’t get constant contributions from teammates night in and night out to help win games on the biggest stage.
Hero ball must go away
Westbrook is the best player on the floor most times he’s on it, but he becomes one of the worst players when he tries to take over games. Although he’s hit big shots many times this season and over his career, hero ball has hurt OKC more than its helped. Westbrook’s 18 shots in the fourth quarter of Game 2 arguably shot the Thunder out of the game. Westbrook shot nine times in the fourth Sunday, but he was one of the only players to score in the period. Westbrook had 10 assists in the first half to only four in the second half. Westbrook has been remarkably better overall in the first half of the first four playoff games. The Thunder can’t win without Westbrook, but he has to continue an the amazing playmaker for a full 48 minutes and not just the first half.
3-1 leads can be overcome
Jokes aside, two teams blew 3-1 leads last season: OKC and Golden State. 11 teams have done it in a 7-game series in NBA history. This one won’t be the same, though. Houston has a better team than OKC and its offense one of the best in NBA history. The Thunder are going to have to be locked in for 48 minutes Tuesday night to have a chance to bring the series back to the sooner state or their season will be over. OKC will need its bench to be effective, Gibson and Adams controlling the paint and being aggressive on offense. Victor Oladipo needs to score possible 20-plus points to help alleviate some of the scoring pressure off Westbrook. The Thunder have to take it one game at a time if they want to come back. Fixing the little mistakes will go a long way in bringing the series back to OKC for a possible Game 6 Thursday night.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!