OKC Thunder vs. Houston Rockets: Game 3 Postgame Grades and Analysis
The Houston Rockets entered Game 3 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a near-must-win situation. Following two games that didn’t go their way, they needed a victory to avoid an 0-3 start, as no NBA team has ever come back to win four straight elimination games.
Unfortunately for Houston, that’s where it now finds itself following a 104-101 loss Saturday night.
It didn’t take long for the Thunder to get a shot in on Patrick Beverly—Beverly collided with Russell Westbrook on the play that ended Westbrook’s season. Kendrick Perkins committed a hard illegal screen on OKC’s first possession, but that didn’t stop Houston from playing with good energy.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, the Thunder don’t typically stay out-energized for long.
By the end of the first quarter, Oklahoma City had taken a 39-19 lead. It was obvious that nobody had an answer for Kevin Durant, as the small forward finished the period with 17 points and four rebounds.
To begin the second, Durant nailed a three-pointer to officially give him more points than the Rockets. Houston’s offense looked just as stagnant as its defense, as it struggled to make long shots, with or without duress.
By halftime, the Thunder had pulled ahead 66-49, and it wasn’t until midway through the third that it looked as if we might have a game to watch down the stretch. The Rockets put together an 8-2 run, and would eventually pull within single digits for the first time since four-and-a-half minutes to go in the first quarter.
Heading into the final 12 minutes, Houston had managed to pull itself within four points. Its frantic pace and willingness to launch from deep were its downfall early, but those are the same characteristics that helped it get back in it.
An improved offense helped the Rockets storm back, but it was the effort on defense that made the real difference. They managed to hold the same Thunder offense that nearly scored 40 in the first to just 5-of-25 shooting in the third, and they held Durant to just four points after he dropped 25 in the first half.
With three minutes and 45 seconds to play, Houston jumped ahead for the first time since its 9-6 lead early. But luckily for OKC, Durant proved to be the star of the show. He tied a playoff career high with 41 points, and he helped the team escape despite the Rockets’ near comeback.
With Westbrook out for the remainder of the playoffs, Reggie Jackson will likely be the starting point guard moving forward. Game 3 marked the first time Jackson started in an NBA game, and while it wasn't a standout performance, he avoided making any crucial mistakes.
Nobody expects Jackson to replicate Westbrook's production. Few in the league are capable of doing that, and with one of them already being on the roster—Kevin Durant—all Jackson has to do is play a clean game and let Durant go to work.
Jackson scored 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting to go with his one assist.
Patrick Beverly will likely have people talking for quite some time, but it won't be because of his forgettable Game 3 performance.
Following the illegal screen from Kendrick Perkins, Beverly went on to record three fouls in just six early minutes. The storyline surrounding him and Russell Westbrook was brought up throughout the entire contest, which at least helped distract from his in-game struggles.
Beverly went on to record six points on 30 percent shooting in just 22 minutes, picking up five total fouls along the way.
Thabo Sefolosha found ways to impact this game without scoring the basketball, which is exactly what this team needs when Kevin Durant takes over. The 2-guard collected two steals and a block on defense, while also recording nine rebounds and three assists during his 42 minutes..
What the Thunder don't need, however, is poor shooting, which is what Sefolosha provided the entire way through.
Scoring just three points isn't a big deal for this team, but shooting 1-of-7, including 1-of-6 from behind the arc, is. That kind of showing is harmful for OKC's chances, especially against a Houston offense that can catch fire at any moment.
If you watched Saturday night's game, it was painfully obvious that Jeremy Lin wasn't himself.
Lin was in the starting lineup despite having a bruised chest muscle. The injury was clearly impacting his shot, as you could see him wincing almost every time the ball left his hands.
Running the three-guard lineup, the Houston Rockets used Lin and Patrick Beverly somewhat interchangeably in the backcourt. Lin did a decent job of finding open teammates regardless of who was defending him, but shots simply weren't falling no matter how good a of pass he threw.
Lin was held to just two points on 1-of-6 shooting, and only managed to play 18 minutes, as he sat on the bench during much of the team's comeback.
Kevin Durant made it clear in this one that the Oklahoma City Thunder still had a potent offensive attack without Russell Westbrook in the lineup. The forward dominated the first period, nearly scoring as many points as the entire Houston Rockets' team.
Durant tallied 41 points, 14 rebounds and four assists on the night, but it was his hot streak early that gave the Thunder all of the momentum.
Following a 27-point performance in the first half, Durant came out a bit passive in the third quarter. That was the time when his team needed him to take over, which is the only thing you can knock the superstar for in Game 3.
He made up for it in the fourth, as he went for double digits in the last 12 minutes.
Despite his energy and willingness to attack the rim, James Harden wasn't able to help keep this game close in the first half. Like the rest of the Rockets, his shot wasn't falling from behind the arc, and he was one of many players who were guilty of playing poor transition defense.
All that being said, Harden is a big reason the Rockets were in it late, as he helped lead the comeback that made this a contest.
Harden has become one of the league's best stat-stuffers, and he proved that again on Saturday. Despite going just 9-of-22 from the floor and missing six of his eight three-point attempts, he scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and collected six assists.
Serge Ibaka played an extremely efficient game Saturday night.
The 23-year-old scored 17 points on 50 percent shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds during his time on the floor—seven of them coming on the offensive end.
Those seven offensive boards are what helped create easy looks at the rim. However, his ability to spread the floor was important, as he could step out to the elbow when it was Kevin Durant's turn to isolate up top.
Ibaka picked up a technical at one point for letting his emotions get the best of him, but it was that same emotion that allowed him to fight on offense every single possession.
Chandler Parsons put together a solid overall performance, impacting a number of areas other than just the points column. He scored 21 points in 44 minutes, but it was his seven assists, seven rebounds, one steal and one block that rounded out his game.
Unfortunately for Parsons, he also turned the ball over five times.
The good doesn't completely negate the bad, but he's a budding star for a reason. His 8-of-12 shooting was huge for Houston, and this kind of performance shows what he can do to positively impact a game.
Unfortunately for Omer Asik, his Game 3 performance will be remembered by most as the time he got put on a poster by Kevin Durant.
Asik has been known to break out an occasional offensive performance for the Houston Rockets, but with the team honing in on the long-range game, the big man never got a chance to make that happen.
The center only attempted one field goal the entire game—a clear result of the team taking 37 three-pointers. His four blocks, however, were hugely helpful. He filled his own role nicely, and he's a big reason OKC was outscored by 12 when it came to points in the paint.
The center position saw the least memorable battle of the entire contest. Kendrick Perkins will be remembered for his shot on Patrick Beverly, as he played just 16 minutes the entire way.
In limited time, Perkins didn't have much of an impact. He's at his best when he can bully players down low, but with no true back-down player on the Houston Rockets, his efforts were overshadowed by two teams getting out in transition.
Perkins recorded just two points and four rebounds.
At this point in the process, it goes without saying that Kevin Martin is no James Harden. However, he fills his role well on the Oklahoma City Thunder, as he kept the Houston Rockets' defense honest Saturday night.
Despite missing eight of his 11 field goals, Martin showed that he can be dangerous from deep range. The Rockets failed to rotate well through much of its early drought, and Martin was one of the players making them pay.
He scored on two of his four looks from downtown, and he reached 12 points when the game came to an end.
Francisco Garcia had a very on-again, off-again game against the Thunder.
Defensively, the 31-year-old did a decent job disrupting Kevin Durant with physical play during the third quarter. Unfortunately, Durant was able to use his length to beat him on the perimeter.
Offensively, the 2-guard played with an efficiency that couldn't be found almost anywhere else on the roster.
With the game on the line late, Garcia hit a huge three-pointer to give the Rockets the lead. Unfortunately, he followed that up with an ill-advised intentional late in the shot clock.
Garcia finished with 18 points, five rebounds and three blocks, while also shooting 4-of-8 from behind the three-point line.
Fransisco Garcia provided a huge spark off the bench. He struggled at times to contain Kevin Durant, but his offensive performance was big when it came to staying in it late.
Outside of Garcia, this team played three players minutes off the bench. Terrence Jones grabbed an impressive seven rebounds in 17 minutes, Aaron Brooks struggled to find his shot and Carlos Delfino impacted the box score without having a great shooting night.
The one thing you know about this second unit is that their energy is going to stay high no matter what is happening. That mentality kept them going when faced with adversity, and they deserve a lot of credit for not giving up, as do the rest of the players on the roster.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder managed to get 27 points out of their second unit, but it came at the expense of some poor shooting.
Between the four players who saw minutes, the group shot just 8-of-27 on the night. Derek Fisher provided the only efficiency off the bench, but he made only one of his attempts from long range.
When you look outside the stat sheet, the reserves played a decent game. They had energy almost the entire way through, and they contributed to making life difficult during the team's hot streaks.
Nobody is going to claim that this was a top-quality performance, but OKC's bench stayed confident and active the entire way through.