Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Game 5 Postgame Grades and Analysis
And we're headed back to Houston.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets took down Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-100 for a second straight victory, forcing a Game 6 at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets got off to a hot start and took a seven-point lead into the half. They came out gunning in the third quarter, increasing their edge to 12 points heading into the fourth.
Oklahoma City began hacking Omer Asik midway through the fourth in hopes that a slew of missed free throws would pave the way for a comeback. Asik held his own at the line, though, and the Thunder were unable to erase the deficit.
No NBA team has ever come back to win a best-of-seven series when falling behind 3-0, but after two convincing victories, the Rockets now have a legitimate opportunity to become the first.
Patrick Beverley, HOU: B+
Patrick Beverley continues to make a case for himself as awesome.
The point guard scored 14 points on 5-of-11 of shooting to go along with one assist, one steal and one block. His two-way energy was just insane. He ran the floor extremely well and seems to be a better fit alongside James Harden than (ducks for cover) Jeremy Lin because he's more comfortable moving off the ball.
I loved Beverley's intensity on the defensive end, too. At 6'1", he can be exploited when he gets caught in post-ups off switches, but his fight on the glass (eight rebounds) is astounding for someone his size.
Just like his efforts here.
Reggie Jackson, OKC: B+
He's no Russell Westbrook, but Reggie Jackson played pretty damn well.
Jackson finished with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting. When Kevin Durant wasn't running the offense, he was able to break down Houston's defense and even create some plays for his teammates (three assists).
Oklahoma City's point man also did some damage on the defensive end. He was overaggressive with his reach-ins, but he generally made the right decisions as a help defender and remained in the face of his opponent when defending on the ball (two blocks).
Suddenly thrust into a more prominent role, Jackson continues to play well. It just wasn't enough here. Nothing the Thunder did was.
James Harden, HOU: A
Now this was the James Harden game we were waiting for.
The bearded wonder had 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He hit on his first seven three-pointers and finished 7-of-9 from downtown.
Harden took just five free throws, but he never stopped attacking the rim. His touches were simply coming within the flow of the offense more. And hell yeah, he was on fire from deep.
One significant advantage Harden has when playing without Jeremy Lin is he doesn't find himself guarding Kevin Durant as much. He spent a majority of his time defending Thabo Sefolosha, DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Martin, none of whom can wear Harden down the way Durant can. It also allowed him to be more effective a help defender.
Harden did a little bit of everything in this one (three assists, eight rebounds and one steal), and the Rockets are still alive as a result.
Thabo Sefolosha, OKC: B
Thabo Sefolosha was very Thabo Sefolosha in this one. I find myself penning that about him every time I watch him, and it's never not true.
He was an inconsistent threat off kickouts and hit on just 3-of-8 from the field for nine points. He did, however, dish out six assists.
Though he played solid defense (big surprise, right?), he had his difficulties when on Harden. Thabo was picked apart on certain screens and failed to recover, hence the many open three-pointers Harden received.
Still, Sefolosha finished with two steals and two blocks and was a big part of the reason why Harden didn't get to the free-throw line as often as usual.
Francisco Garcia, HOU: B
Someone needs to tell Francisco Garcia he's not supposed to be playing this well.
Garcia finished with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting (5-of-12 from three). He kept the ball moving if his shot wasn't there and pitched an a solid effort on the glass (five rebounds). He also drained a three-pointer late in the fourth that was the essential dagger.
The manner in which Garcia defended Durant was somewhat comical at times. He took unnecessary gambles like he was the superior player, most of which resulted in him getting burned.
Whenever he's going to score like he did here, though, he can play defense however he wants (only slightly kidding).
Kevin Durant, OKC: A-
Watching Kevin Durant go one-on-five was great. It was also sad.
The Durantula wasn't hoarding the ball more than he should have. He really wasn't. His teammates just weren't hitting shots. He finished with seven assists but would have had even more if his Oklahoma City brethren buried some open shots.
Durant finished with 36 points on 11-of-23 shooting. He also went 13-of-16 from the free-throw line. Admittedly, his shot selection wasn't the best down the stretch, but he didn't have the luxury of patience. Or a consistent supporting cast. And he was clearly frustrated near the end when he received a technical late in the fourth.
To put it simply, Durant did more than enough for the Thunder to win. His teammates, however, did not.
Chandler Parsons, HOU: C
Chandler Parsons is quite lucky his affinity for hot-and-cold basketball didn't come back to bite the Rockets in Game 5. He finished with 10 points on an unimpressive 4-of-12 shooting from the floor, including an 0-of-5 showing from behind the rainbow.
When it became clear his shot wasn't falling, he did make more of an effort to move the ball (four assists), so there's that. He set some nice screens to help James Harden create space as well.
Normally not a terrible defender, Parsons is clearly having trouble adjusting to added sets in the post. He's just not physical enough.
Entering Game 6, the Rockets are going to need more out Parsons offensively. Wouldn't it be nice to see him and Harden have it going on the same night?
Serge Ibaka, OKC: B+
Oklahoma City needed more from most of its players not named Kevin Durant, but Serge Ibaka wasn't one of them.
Serge finished the game with nine rebounds and two blocks to go along with 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He did a great job rolling off screens and was very adamant about not missing any putbacks this time around.
The Thunder didn't fare well defensively as a whole, but Ibaka did a great job underneath, contesting shots and making life difficult on Houston's only true big, Omer Asik, even before they starting hacking the hell out of him.
I would've liked to see Ibaka move off the ball on offense more when he wasn't setting screens. That would have taken some of the pressure off Kevin Durant.
Omer Asik, HOU: A-
Some of you are going to hate me, but I couldn't resist. Omer Asik was a hero in this one.
Not only did he grab 11 rebounds and block two shots, but he finished 13-of-18 from the foul line. Most of his attempts from the charity stripe came in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City started hacking him with nearly half the period left, and Asik—a 56.2-percent foul shooter during the regular season—was clutch.
Through the first three quarters, there were moments of sloppiness, mainly on offense. He still has a tendency to start moving before he even catches the ball.
But does any of that matter?
Not as much as his fourth-quarter heroics did.
Kendrick Perkins, OKC: C-
Yeah, Kendrick Perkins was terrible in this one.
While he managed to grab five rebounds in just 16 minutes, I wish I'd kept a tally on how many of those were courtesy of Serge Ibaka taking Asik out of the play.
He rarely got back on defense in time, and on the off chance he decided to set a screen, it was soft and easy for the Rockets to fight over.
Perkins just didn't fit the pace at which Oklahoma City wanted to play here. He never has. And I'm not sure he ever will.
Carlos Delfino, HOU: Incomplete
After playing just 10 minutes, Carlos Delfino left this game with a sore left foot and didn't return.
Prior to his exit, he missed his only shot and dished out one assist. He also did a nice job defending Kevin Martin in a short period of time.
Fortunately for the Rockets, their deep-ball-happy attack didn't need his three-point prowess to close this one out.
Kevin Martin, OKC: D
The only thing that separated Kevin Martin and an "F" was his four rebounds. That's it.
Oklahoma City's supposed volume scorer was just 1-of-10 from the field for three points. Seriously, his jump shot was ugly. He got some pretty good looks after Delfino was taken out of the game (though they could have been better if he put the ball on the floor).
As if an abysmal offensive performance wasn't enough, Martin really wasn't communicating with his teammates on defense. He wasn't rotating and basically aided in the Rockets' three-point barrage.
With Russell Westbrook watching from the luxury suites, Kevin Durant and the Thunder need Martin to step up in Game 6, not disappear like he did in Game 5.
Houston Rockets: B-
Houston's bench was really just Aaron Brooks.
Greg Smith logged 10 minutes, hit his only shot, grabbed two rebounds and forced a steal. Kevin McHale didn't seem like he could afford to play him any more. He needed Omer Asik in the game, and Smith can't stretch the floor the way Chandler Parsons can.
Brooks hit just four of his 11 shots, but he really helped set the tone in the second half. He even had some (gasp) solid defensive sets.
Brooks definitely needed to pass more (that's always been an issue of his), but he dropped a few sweet dimes when running points. He finished with 10 points, three assists and three rebounds.
Who needs a deep bench when you can get 29 combined minutes from Brooks and Smith? Not the Rockets. At least, not in this one.
Nick Collison was beyond active in just seven minutes of action. He had six points, two rebounds and two blocks. My question: Why did he only play just seven minutes?
I get that he won't match up well with the Rockets since they play small, but still, the way the Thunder defended, they could have used him.
DeAndre Liggins provided 18 minutes of solid defense (one block), which is more than we can say for most of his teammates. He did a nice job reading first steps, fighting over screens and frustrating shots (just not James Harden's).
The catch? Liggins remains an offensive liability. He was just 1-of-4 from the field and forces the Thunder to play four-on-five.
Derek Fisher was just 2-of-6 from the field for eight points. The crowd was clearly waiting for him to catch fire from deep, but he never did (2-of-5).
Surprisingly, Oklahoma City's bench performance was one of the few bright spots in this one.