Houston Rockets Miss Golden Opportunity to Steal Series Momentum vs. OKC Thunder

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 24:  Head coach Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets talks with James Harden #13, Patrick Beverley #12, Omer Asik #3 and Carlos Delfino #10 during a break from Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena on April 24, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Thunder defeated the Rockets 105-102.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fighting through a 15-point deficit and overcoming 25 missed three-pointers, the Houston Rockets had a chance to steal a game on the road from the Oklahoma City Thunder, only to come up just short in the end, falling 105-102.

After a rough (and really, the word "rough" is underselling it here) Game 1 loss to the Thunder, a win in Game 2 would not only begin to salvage the series, but it would also even give the Rockets a bit of momentum as well.

Houston came out in a situation where it was not only keeping pace with Oklahoma City's offensive efficiency (or I suppose you could call it a relative lack of efficiency), but also controlling the game at times and putting the Thunder on skates.

As was expected, Oklahoma City eventually went on a run. The Thunder took a 10-point lead thanks to some incredible ball movement and an extended stretch of suffocating defense for the first time all game.

Houston paced the Thunder from there, eventually giving up another mini-run, but the Rockets were never deterred, even while looking up at a 15-point deficit with just nine minutes left to play.

The inside-outside game finally found a rhythm, Houston muscled its way to offensive rebounds, and suddenly the Rockets found themselves on the happy side of a 16-0 run in less than four minutes.

It was the game that Houston knew it needed to play coming in, and the Rockets were putting their game plan into place. Perhaps they didn't imagine such an extended scoreless stretch from the Thunder, but a series of runs would be the backbone of their offensive attack.

Suddenly, once it became less of a coaching matchup (Kevin McHale destroyed Kevin Brooks tonight) and more of a "who has the better player" contest, the Thunder won.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook traded drives to the bucket, and then Kevin Durant casually hit a 25-footer, before finding Thabo Sefolosha for an open three-pointer on the very next play.

Harden split a pair of free throws and the Thunder countered with a wide-open jumper from Serge Ibaka, and that was about it.

Right there. Tough team to beat on the road. Great comeback, can't dig that big a hole. #advancedanalysis

— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) April 25, 2013

Oklahoma City doesn't miss free throws, so getting into a fouling game with the Thunder ended predictably with the Rockets on the bottom of the pile.

Once it was over, it became painfully obvious that losing this game was a tough pill to swallow for the Rockets, especially because they'll have to win four of the next five games if they want to pull off the already doubtful upset.

Can they still make it a series? Sure, but it would have been a lot easier if they would have taken advantage of the gift that Oklahoma City tried to give them.

Houston's crazy thought of playing three guards actually worked, only not in the one way that would have given it the game. The Rockets shot just 29 percent from the three-point line, making 10 of their 35 attempts.

What it did do was give them the much-needed activity against the Thunder, penetration becoming possible thanks to the obvious (James Harden being awesome) and the not-so obvious (Chandler Parsons pump-faking everyone out of their shoes).

Second-chance points came on the regular, with Houston pulling down 18 offensive rebounds with a ton of shots bouncing into the gaps in the Thunder rebounding squad and Houston cleaning up the mid-range boards.

For Pete's sake, Patrick Beverley had five offensive rebounds! That's likely not happening again in this series.

Scott Brooks on Houston killing OKC on the boards: "It doesn't add up, but it does add up." #DEEP

— Royce Young (@dailythunder) April 25, 2013

Most baffling, putting Beverley on Westbrook almost totally worked. He got under Westbrook's skin to the point where Westbrook started shooting more but didn't start making shots at a higher rate.

Sure, Beverley got stripped by Westbrook a few times, but in the end it was surprisingly a more positive experience than expected.

The Thunder missed 24 three-pointers, watched as they were out-rebounded by 17 boards and gave up 20 more points in the paint than they scored themselves. And still, Oklahoma City won.

The Rockets missed a huge chance here, one that might not come up again if the Thunder are able to fill the holes defensively, make more three-pointers and rebound more efficiently than they did in this one.

At this point, actually winning the series is a huge long shot, but even turning competitive in this series is going to be difficult after realizing that they couldn't beat the Thunder in a game that was an absolute disaster on their part.

It could still make for an exciting two, three or possibly even four games, but it seems completely reasonable to write Oklahoma City into the next round in pen.