Saturday, May 4, 2013

OKC Survives The Gut Check

Closing Out
First off, this... showing four elimination games in a 5 hour block is borderline inhumane. I didn't want to miss a minute of any of these four games, and might have to just stay up and look at the replays. The fact that a national TV audience is going to see dramatically less fun hoop at a sane hour on Sunday afternoon is just wrong, but so be it.

In game five of this series, Oklahoma City played their worst game imaginable. They looked lost, lacking in confidence, squandering the home crowd and with body language that was just immature. No part of the #1 seed looked good, and I was starting to become convinced that we had seen the best we were going to see from this team and franchise.

Tonight, they played a great game. Kevin Martin shook off a mostly awful series to carry them in the first half. Reggie Jackson contributed 17-7-8 with just 2 turnovers, and looked like a young player on the rise, rather than a guy who was in over his head. Derek Fisher and Nick Collison showed that experience, and being calm in a maelstrom, has immense value; they were also +32 and +20 in 26 an 22 minutes, respectively. Durant's 27-8-6 is borderline average for him, but it came spread out, with solid work late to put it away.

Houston, of course, has nothing to be ashamed of. James Harden threw down big numbers again tonight (26-6-7, on 7 of 22 shooting) despite clearly not being himself with the flu. Chandler Parsons had 25-7-3 and was their best player; he might be the league's most underrated player. Omer Asik's 13/13 was another solid effort. But the sudden injury to Carlos Delfino threw their bench out of kilter, and Jeremy Lin's attempt to return from injury was a -18 failure in 13 minutes. The OKC bench outscored Houston's reserves by 35 points tonight, and that should never happen in a home playoff game. They need a couple of more pieces, and might have to just bite the bullet and start Patrick Beverly over Lin, but you rarely see a more rewarding year for a #8 seed.

Now the Thunder get home court against a Grizzly team that has given them fits in the past (to be fair, the Grizz give everyone fits; that is what they do), with a health advantage and rabid dog defenders all over the roster. They are going to need much better play from their bigs (Kendrick Perkins was useless in this series, and might be more so against Marc Gasol), and Jackson is going to have to contain Mike Conley, or it won't even go long. But for now, they avoided becoming the first team to lose a series after being up 3-0, and starting their next series with an extreme rest disadvantage. For as bad as they looked 48 hours ago, it's all they could have hoped for.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule