For a night, Oklahoma City showed some progress, found a little of the old magic, and that was something to celebrate. And that was something that was too much for the Rockets.
We all know the Thunder are not themselves right now, that their biggest tests lie ahead (started Sunday against Memphis). But for a night it was enough.
The Thunder battled back from a 10-point third quarter deficit, took control with a 14-4 run at the start of the fourth quarter and went on to beat the Rockets 103-94 Friday night.
With the win the Thunder win the series 4-2 and advance to the second round — which starts Sunday in OKC against a tough Memphis Grizzlies squad.
But to get there the Thunder had to find a little of their magic again, which was missing in the couple of Rockets wins since Russell Westbrook went down for the playoffs with a torn meniscus. This was easily the best Thunder game since that injury.
What they found in the first half was the good Kevin Martin — 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting as he was getting to the line and knocking down threes. Martin would finish the game with 25 points. Reggie Jackson added 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Of course, this is still Kevin Durant’s team and he pretty much carried the Thunder this series and for the game 27 points (on 11-of-23 shooting) with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Or look at it this way: In the four games since Westbrook went down Durant has averaged 35.5 points on 51 percent shooting, while adding 9.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists — those are monster numbers from the guy that has to carry a bigger load on offense.
Led by Durant, we say a more focused Thunder team, one that on offense scored 113 points per 100 possessions and looked more like one of the best offenses in the NBA.
All of which was too much for the Rockets. Houston got 26 points out of James Harden and another strong performance form Chandler Parsons (25 points on 14 shots).
This was all a learning process for a young team. The Rockets picked up James Harden in a great deal before the season and he has proved he can be the alpha dog for the team. Parsons, Omer Asik and Patrick Beverly are some good role players (as is Jeremy Lin most of the time). But this was always going to be a learning experience for the Rockets — and I think they did grow from it. This team got better and better as the season went on. They should have their chins up.
But the Thunder have already been where the Rockets are trying to get. And they looked more like that team on Friday, showing some heart n a comeback and eventual win==. Which was good enough to send them to the second round
The Thunder have survived and advanced and that should be celebrated. You can start the new task in a couple days.