Every higher seed in the NBA playoffs won its first game, but none did so more impressively than the Thunder, who beat the Rockets by 29. One game doesn’t make a postseason, or even a series, but Oklahoma City’s victory is promising.
Last year, the Heat led the playoffs in wins by such a margin. They won the championship.
The year before, the Mavericks led the playoffs in wins by such a margin. They won the championship.
One win doesn’t turn the Thunderinto favorites to win the title – the Heat still carry that title – but it’s at least encouraging.
The Rockets probably did not need to spend two days studying video to know what went wrong. They might not have needed Serge Ibaka to describe their offense as “selfish” when the Oklahoma City defenders switched on picks or for Nick Collison to say the Thunder “bigs are going to be helpers a lot in this series.”
One way or another, they got the message.
“If they switch out, we have to make them pay for that,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We have to get the ball inside. We have to move the ball and cut. To stand against (Ibaka), he’s long enough that he can play one-on-one, space you out and get a hand up. We took way too many contested jump shots off the dribble. That’s not how we want to play.
“We have some adjustments to make. The guys saw some things we did that was out of character for us. We’ll be way better tonight. I’m sure we’ll be better.”
The Rockets’ quality offense vs. the Thunder’s quality defense is an intriguing subplot to this series. But the Thunder’s offense is also good, and the Rockets’ defense is, well, not.
Houston can – and likely will – narrow the gap, but stealing a win will be much more difficult.