After dropping the first game of the series, 120-91, the task of taking four of the next six from Oklahoma City seems akin to free-climbing Half Dome. In other words, it's plenty daunting.
Houston was outworked in every way against the Thunder. It shot under 40 percent, hit just 8-of-36 three-point attempts, was out-rebounded, stole fewer passes, blocked fewer shots and turned the ball over more.
The only thing the Rockets had to their credit was more offensive rebounds, but when you miss as many shots as the Rockets did, a handful of offensive rebounds will be easier to come by.
Time: Wednesday, April 24, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Series Record: Oklahoma City Thunder 1, Houston Rockets 0
Key Storyline: "We've got to do a lot better"
Sift through all the comments about how odd it is to play against James Harden and all the quips about the press-conference wardrobe that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook whipped out after their Game 1 win and you'll find a single, horrifying quote:
Almost the first thing out of KD's mouth tonight: "We've got to do a lot better."— Royce Young (@dailythunder) April 22, 2013
The Thunder, after winning by 29 points, have got to do a lot better? If this is the mentality with which they're approaching the playoffs, then the rest of the Western Conference better go ahead and pack it in right now.
Oklahoma City nearly ran a perfect game against the Rockets.
It shot a solid 17-percent better than Houston, including nearly 20-percent better from the three-point line.
The Thunder made it nearly impossible for Houston to penetrate, and making threes was equally difficult.
Only one player on the Rockets who attempted more than four shots had a field-goal percentage of over 40 percent (Omer Asik was 4-of-9), and Harden was as bad as any of them at 6-of-19.
Oklahoma City was able to play at Houston's pace, all while out-gunning the Rockets and suffocating them on defense.
If it can do "a lot better" than that, then this series is already over.
Injury Report (Via CBSSports.com)
Rockets: No injuries reported.
Thunder: No Injuries reported.
Projected Starting Lineups
Rockets: Jeremy Lin (PG), James Harden (SG), Chandler Parsons (SF), Greg Smith (PF), Omer Asik (C)
Thunder: Russell Westbrook (PG), Thabo Sefolosha (SG), Kevin Durant (SF), Serge Ibaka (PF), Kendrick Perkins (C)
Oklahoma City Wins If...
There's anywhere near the same amount of intensity.
The Thunder proved that they have that "playoff gear" with their huge win over the Rockets on Sunday evening.
For most of the season, there was continued speculation about whether their new team makeup would translate as well into the postseason, especially since one of their most aggressive players, James Harden, was suiting up for another team.
Sunday against Houston, the defense was swarming, the offense was relentless and Westbrook and Durant truly played together.
In a game that left even Skip Bayless at a loss for words of criticism, Westbrook took just 15 shots and doled out 10 assists on top of his 19 points. That's the way it seems Oklahoma City is geared to play over the course of the next month.
Houston is going to come out with an idea of what to expect on Wednesday, but if the Thunder maintain the same level of intensity, there are few teams in the NBA who could even keep up with them.
Houston Wins If...
Mistakes are minimized and shots start falling.
Basically, Houston needs to have everything that went wrong in Game 1 go right in Game 2.
The Rockets looked every inch the inexperienced, young team that they were at the beginning of the season, their lack of playoff experience shining through every crack in their defense.
It got so bad that general manager Daryl Morey had to step back and assess the situation from afar:
That was painful— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) April 22, 2013
The fact is that this team is going to have to grow up on the fly. It's the same story with every young team in their first trip to the playoffs.
Hell, just take a look at the Oklahoma City Thunder in their first playoff game with the foundation of Durant and Westbrook in place. They scored a mere 79 points against the eventual title-winning Los Angeles Lakers squad.
Granted, they didn't give up 120 points. But their offense was punched in the mouth, and they were better for it in the long run.
Houston isn't winning this series. That much is obvious. However, with a bit of luck and some more rational decision making, the Rockets should be able to at least steal a game or two.
What the Thunder are doing right now is attempting to stare the rest of the league down in a display of dominance, and it seems to be working so far.
They didn't exactly draw an easy matchup for their first-round series, but they took the Rockets for what they were worth in Game 1 and turned their style of play right back around on them.
Houston is going to need a lot to go right in order to find a way to win, and it's not unlikely that the Thunder could have a mediocre game and still end up with a victory—so long as their defense comes out on point yet again.
Winning by such a large margin could be a bit of a confidence-booster for Oklahoma City, and it could even lead to it overlooking the rest of this series. But judging from the postgame press conference, that is highly doubtful.
If the Rockets are going to take a game from Oklahoma City, it will likely be in the friendly confines of the Toyota Center. Certainly not on the road in the Thunderdome.
Oklahoma City 109, Houston 94.
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