Will the real Oklahoma City Thunder please stand up? The Thunder we’ve been given so far isn’t the Thunder that was promised or expected.
After two games in their first-round series matchup against the Houston
Thunder …sorry my bad I mean the Houston Rockets the Thunder find themselves in a two-game hole that looks deeper and deeper the more you look down into it. The Thunder came into this series with a 0.2 percent chip on their shoulder (If you don’t get the 0.2 reference see Thunder twitter), driven by a grizzled vet in search of success for the first time in his 15 year career followed by a Tic Tok boy band that includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Luguentz Dort looking to out energize the vets on Houston while they all look to explode on to the scene in a big way. In the first two games of the series, it comes down to the Rocket’s volume of shooting vs the lack of leadership of the Thunder.
Leadership: Chris Paul has simply not shown up in this playoff series to the level he is needed to and it’s there for the world to see. Game one Paul went 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three on 3-of-8 shooting and a minus seven for the game. In-game two it got worst for the leader of the Thunder going 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists on 40 percent shooting from the field and 2-of-7 from three-point range shooting at 28.6 percent and a huge minus 36. Chris Paul the Point GOD will you please stand up? Paul need’s to find the dog inside him with a point to prove because against his former team and teamate (James Harden) that traded him for his best friend and a better younger version of a point guard yet Paul is looking like a washed up veteran on the worst contract in sports with no way out.
Volume: The Rockets have been shooting the hell out of the ball in the first two games and i am not talking about from a percentage perspective i am talking from a volume perspective in game one the Rockets put up 52 three-point shots hitting 20 of them, in-game two the Rockets went even further and throwing up 56 three-point shots hitting 19. The Rockets have a belief that you and i have known since we learned to count and that’s three is more than two simply if they can hit more three’s than you hit two’s they will win the game the Rockets are taking away the mid-game and shooting three’s or attacking the rim no in-between and so far this series it’s proving absolutely true for the Rockets and Coach Mike D’Antoni.
Giving it away: If the Thunder are going to turn this 0-2 deficit around they need to start with the turnover game. In the first two games, the Rockets defense has completely controlled this series and their ability to turn the Thunder over has been key to that dominance. For the two games the Rockets have turned the Thunder over 27-14 with the Rockets scoring 32 points off turnovers and the Thunder only getting 14 that’s a minus 18 for the series. In-game one Paul was the only player to register a steal for the game with two. In the second game, two players registered steals both with one and that’s Steven Adams and Gilgeous-Alexander. Compared to the Rockets who had four in game one and eight in game two.
YOUTH: The Thunder need their kids to go and run and run and run and run! From the beginning of the season, The Houston Rockets are the oldest team in the league at 30.1 years old while the Thunder is 25.3 years old. With no Russell Westbrook, the Rockets are unable to unleash the second fastest team in the league with a regular-season pace of 104.04 in the playoffs they have a pace of 95.75 which is tied ninth in the playoffs along with… The Oklahoma City Thunder. In the regular season, the Thunder were ranked 21st in the league with a pace of 99.42 down from 103.38 and sixth fastest team in 2018/19 with Westbrook whereas the Rockets were ranked 27th at 98.39. After game one Thunder coach Billy Donovan asked his team to push the pace and intensity in game two and the Thunder failed to do so recording the same pace as the Rockets in game two at 94.00 pace.
“We’ve got to play with a better a better tempo and a better pace,”Coach Donovan said post game one “Whether we’re missing or making shots, we’ve got to play with a good pace and a good tempo and a good flow. When we don’t, we get a little bit bogged down.”
The Thunder needs their youth and excitability to come alive and takeover game three and that needs to start with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who rebounded well after a poor game one finishing game two with 31 points, six rebounds and two assists shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 42.9 from three hitting three long-range shots while getting to the line 11 times hitting 10 free-throws. Dort brought his defense in his first playoff game doing a great job on James Harden limiting him to 18.2 percent from three and 31.3 from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort need guys like Bazley, Diallo, and Noel to step up and contribute off the bench. In-game one the Thunder lost the bench battle 27-42 using eight guys off the bench with Rockets using six and game two 20-32 Rockets used three off the bench Thunder went with four.
Written by Shannon Blake
STATS PROVIDED BY: CLEANING THE GLASS & NBA.COM