On Kevin Martin Stopping Durant, Westbrook and Thunder

Kevin Martin finished with 32 points, but he was stuck on 30 all through the fourth quarter, before heading to the line with 23 second on the clock, hitting both shots and giving the Houston Rockets a 96-95 lead. Both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had a chance to win it for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but both missed.

Despite combining for 59 points, there was something off about Durant and Westbrook’s game. Maybe it was the shooting, with both of them combining for 23-51 from the field, with James Harden also missing out on the 50% mark, finishing with 17 points. Too predictable, most of the time, and despite the big return in the fourth quarter, The big three for the Thunder didn’t get any help from the rest of the guys. Only 19 points outside those 3.

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For the Rockets, it was Kevin Martin returning to his old self. February has been a rough month for the hot and cold shooter, with 5 single digit scoring games so far, including 0 against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Not this time. Martin actually took good shots all through the game, finishing with 10-18 from the field, exploiting the defensive mismatches created for him all night long.

Statistically, the writing was on the wall for the Thunder by the end of the third quarter. The Rockets are 16-1 when leading after three quarters this season, 1-12 when behind. They had a two point lead going into the final 12 minutes, but apparently, as usual, it was more than enough. Their record in super close games (2 points or less) has been flawless as well this season.

For the Thunder, it was about the lack of team basketball. Russell Westbrook took too many shots, instead of trying to create more for his teammates. He commands double teams when he penetrates, but prefers too often to take the difficult shot instead of dishing out to an open teammate. Only 4 assists is just not enough for a point guard who plays 37 minutes.

Kevin Durant, watching Westbrook forget about the passing didn’t really involve himself in passing as well. Too many tough shots, even for Durant, as he finished with 2-7 from beyond the arc, as the Thunder shot realtivley poorly as team from three point (7-23).

The Rockets won’t go very far because eventually, they rely too much on Kevin Martin having nights like this one. He can destroy you on some nights, and he can ruin it for his own team on others. His 42.8% from the field could be worse, but you can’t go far with your star player taking so many bad shots each night. Finding more points from the bench and from their Center (Dalembert with only 2) is also a must if they want to more than a fringe playoff team.

Despite the loss, the Thudner are still the number one ranked team in the West with a 22-7 record. The Rockets, at 17-13, are third in the Southwest and sixth in the conference.