No Jeremy Lin, where are thou coming from the Houston Rockets, making the most of their rivals missing their second best player and using quite unintelligent tactics to try and make up for it. Meanwhile, James Harden finally played the kind of game he’s supposed to, while Omer Asik made the most of being the focus of intentional fouls in an attempt to send him to the line.
On most days, Asik is one of the worst free throw shooters in the NBA. But as Scott Brooks continues to show that actual coaching and decision making in NBA games isn’t the thing for him (although one can always use the Westbrook excuse), Asik showed no problem with the hack-Asik tactics finishing with 13-18 from the line, scoring 21 points to help the Rockets make it 2-3 in the series before heading back home with all of the momentum, winning 107-100 in OKC.
James Harden finally showed up. Taking the right shots, making his open ones, and not forcing it, at least not too much. He hit seven three pointers en route to 31 points, finally realizing that driving headstrong into the paint might not be the best way to score points in this series. With enough good shooting around him, there’s no reason to change the direction of the ball. He didn’t finish with too many assists (only 3), but looked completely different than earlier in the series in his decision making, cutting down his turnovers to only 3.
Chandler Parsons was 0-5 from beyond the arc, and the Rockets still won. Patrick Beverley didn’t do anything special, scoring 10 points, and the Rockets still looked like the better team. Francisco Garcia, one of the few veterans on this team, scored a very surprising 18 points on 5-12 from beyond the arc (the Rockets were a total of 14-35, 40%) and while they didn’t get too much from the bench except for 10 points from Aaron Brooks, the Thunder never got anything going from theirs.
Kevin Martin will now be criticized for not being what James Harden could have been for the Thunder. Martin was only 1-10 from the field, scoring just 3 points. He’s not guarded very well, he simply can’t make shots that went in smoothly during the regular season, now boasting a 6-24 on catch-and-shoot plays, which are the bread and butter for a player like him. Martin led the team in efficiency on catch-and-shoot jumpers during the regular season, averaging 1.26 points per play while shooting 43.7%.
And there is Kevin Durant, showing more and more that there’s a reason he’s the perennial number 2 at the moment. Not having Westbrook beside him is definitely a hindrance, but he chocked in the fourth quarter, being the primary ball handler on 14 of his 19 touches, but failing to score a single time, going 0-5 while turning the ball three times before getting a technical foul in the closing seconds.
The Rockets might be a better team now that Westbrook is gone, and they’re a better team without an injured Jeremy Lin. When Lin returns, he might be surprised to find out he’s actually playing for the favorites in the series.