Thursday, April 25, 2013

State of the Series Address: Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)

Despite one hell of an effort from the Houston Rockets in Game Two, so far business has been taken care of by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder remain seated atop their No. 1 seed throne maintaining home-court advantage by going up 2-0 in the series with their two initial home games. This is obviously a great sign for OKC. Houston showed promise in Game Two as well, though. Which is promising for their fans as the two teams head back down to Texas for the next two games. While it's been two wins for Oklahoma City, plenty of story-lines have emerged to look forward to in Houston.

Durant and Westbrook
Another great sign for the Thunder is that it seems that after all of the hub-bub that surrounds these two guys on a constant basis Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been on the exact same page. No need to scrutinize over their shot attempts thus far. Each of the two players went 7-for-15 from the field in Game One. In Game Two, Westbrook went 10-for-26 alongside Durant's 10-for-25, both players tallying 29 points. Seems like a full and even spread thus far for the OKC superstars.

Russell Westbrook vs. Patrick Beverley
A great deal of chippiness emerged between Westbrook and Beverly in Game Two. It started when Westbrook was slowly crossing half-court for a timeout and Beverley, going for a steal, bashed into Westbrooks knee. This action infuriated Russ to the point where he was slamming the scorer's table and yelling what we can only assume were obscenities. Later, Beverley, seemingly going for a steal again, knocked Westbrook to the ground. Beverley ran over to offer Russ help up, a gesture that was not accepted.
Westbrook popped up on his own and swung Beverley's arm out of his way. Beverley continued to be a pest for the rest of the game as he could be seen wrapping his arm around Westbrook before late-game inbound plays. Keep a close eye on these two guys moving forward.

James Harden
Kind of an obvious one. You know, the guy with the big beard who used to come off the bench for the Thunder and is now a starter, focal point and top-five scorer in the entire NBA for the Houston Rockets following a trade that was made prior to the regular season. Harden isn't only a great story here because of his former OKC ties. He's extra notable because the Houston Rockets are only going to go as far as Harden can carry them in this series. A disappointing 20-point performance in Game One on 6-of-19 shooting became a blowout in favor of OKC. In Game Two however, Harden provided Houston 36 points (still not very efficient, 9-for-24) resulting in a 105-102 nail-biter. Harden will need to be spectacular for the Rockets to snag a game during this upcoming homestand. He's only made two of his 13 three-point attempts in this series. That needs to pick up.

Serge Ibaka's offense
Ibaka hasn't blown the doors off the place offensively, because he doesn't have to considering the team he is on, but he has significantly improved. 17 points in Game One and 12 in Game Two including a huge 18-footer that clinched the victory for the Thunder down the stretch. He's been an elite defender for years now but with his added offense Ibaka is unarguably the Thunder's third-best player.

Rockets role-players
Harden needs some help. Beverley, Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino were able to give him some support in Game Two, but not nearly enough. I wouldn't mind seeing head coach Kevin McHale look to Aaron Brooks for some instant offense. Either way, Harden's teammates need to improve their field-goal percentage quite a bit to compete with Oklahoma City.

That's all for now, kiddos. This series could be over soon so get your Rockets fix while you can.

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