The Thunder used their strong inside presence to defeat the NBA’s best this year. Golden State, Cleveland, and Toronto struggled against Steven Adams specifically, and that’s secretly become OKC’s most lethal offensive and defensive threat.
The Houston Rockets deserve all the credit in the world for realizing that and focusing almost exclusively on Adams during the first half on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, while letting the big three ‘get theirs.’
Adams didn’t score in the first half, so after Houston took away OKC’s inside game, the rest of their offense was stunted. Despite 19 points from Carmelo Anthony and 14 points from Russell Westbrook, the rest of the team only combined for 12 points and more significantly, Adams only attempted one shot. It didn’t help that Paul George had an uncharacteristically poor half, shooting just 1-of-7 for 3 points.
Without George’s offensive presence and Adams being a complete non-factor for the majority of the game, Houston’s job on the Thunder was done and it was up to them to execute offensively, which obviously isn’t an issue for the best team in the NBA.
Their job defensively on Adams shot his confidence to the point where it affected his defensive game as well. Houston’s Clint Capella had the upper hand and so did the rest of the Rockets team, outscoring the Thunder 24-8 in the paint, a place where once again, OKC tends to excel.
A nine-point halftime lead extends to a 13-point lead to end the third quarter. Despite Adams scoring nine points and the team scoring 29, the Thunder still clearly miss Andre Roberson. Why? 33 points were scored by Houston and
there was no answer for not only James Harden and Chris Paul, but the four other Rockets in double-figures as well…that’s why.
Houston players in double figures.
- Chris Paul: 25 points.
- James Harden: 23 points.
- Trevor Ariza: 15 points.
- Eric Gordon: 14 points.
- Luc Mbah a Moute: 11 points.
- PJ Tucker: 10 points.
- Clint Capella: 10 points.
OKC players in double figures.
- Russell Westbrook: 32 points.
- Carmelo Anthony: 23 points.
- Paul George: 17 points.
- Steven Adams: 16 points.
- Corey Brewer: 10 points.
For the overly offensive-minded people, the slogan ‘defense wins championships’ is 100 percent accurate. That slogan lurked over the OKC’s heads during the second half and especially in the fourth quarter. It was a classic case of scoring at will while executing on offense, but not being able to stop a division two college on defense.
What the Rockets did for three quarters on defense held more weight than OKC’s last-minute heave from the five-minute mark of the fourth. Their offense was seemingly clicking finally, Adams was officially back to scoring, George decided he could score again with 10 of his 17 points, and Westbrook was in full comeback mode with 10 as well. But the lack of defense still resulted in 38 points from the Rockets.