As James Harden carved his way to his 13th Playoff game with 30+ points, 2nd in Rockets history behind Moses Malone, Houston proved it was more than just a three-point threat, as a team which average 115.3 points per game throughout the regular season went to work both inside and out, torching the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-87.
Harden finished with 37 points on 13-of-28 shooting, seven boards, nine rebounds, three steals, and just two turnovers. It was a masterclass in basketball, slashing and cutting through the Thunder’s shoddy interior defence, as if he was a hot knife with a grudge against butter.
And then there’s Patrick Beverley, a man who has mostly remained under the radar this season and a player whose previous history vs the Thunder makes him must-watch entertainment. To put it bluntly, Beverley was the man last night. Even after he was completely KO’d by Steven Adams.
Beverley shot 8-of-13 en route to 21 points, helping the Rockets in every way – from pumping up the crowd to diving on loose balls – as the team as a whole shot almost 50 percent from the field and knocked down 10 three-pointers en route their 31-point win.
As for Russell Westbrook, well he had a disaster, giving his critics much need ammunition to fire at the possible MVP. Westbrook had 23 shots, 22 points and more turnovers than assists. It was no wonder he looked dazed and confused as he sat the final minutes of a Game 1 blowout. The Thunder were simply outmatched and outgunned, as a team which had relied so heavily on one individuals brilliance, faltered with every step.
Enes Kanter was 3-of-7 and a turnstile on defence as the Rockets decided it would be fun to literally torture him in the pick and roll, as the Rocket’s dominated the interior, out hustling and out rebounding the best rebounding team in the league. Houston held a remarkable 31-2 lead on second chance points last night, something which should in reality be a typo – it isn’t. All of this resulting in leaving the Thunder’s number one rebounder, Steven Adams, with just five boards.
Meanwhile Nene and Clint Capela combined to shoot 14-of-17 from the field, silencing anyone who said they couldn’t possibly be a match for Oklahoma’s usually dominant forward core.
If this game showed us anything, it’s that Houston are the better team all across the court, and no matter the individual mismatches – Adams on Harden?! Lou Williams on Westbrook?! – greatness and individual ability comes to the forefront in the Playoffs. Of course, it would be stupid to draw conclusions from Game 1, in a possible 7 game series, but Oklahoma looked mentally beaten throughout large portions of last night’s game and as one of the league’s all-time great offences went to work, there was nothing the Thunder or Westbrook could do to stop it.