Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets Series Preview
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder
𝐈𝐓'𝐒 𝐆𝐎 𝐓𝐈𝐌𝐄. pic.twitter.com/w36nFB5zIN
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 18, 2020
After trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the Thunder were looked at as a rebuilding project. They were given a less than two percent chance of making the playoffs. But the Thunder transformed into something different. They turned into one of the hottest teams in the league, featuring ridiculous comebacks during league play. Their season was truly magical.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 18, 2020
The Houston Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook via trade last summer. The two alphas, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, back on the same side once again. A lot of criticism was thrown Houston’s way when this move happened. However, I get it. Something needed to be changed up. The Rockets now have two stars whose timeline of greatness are projected to be ascending in the same direction. On top of that, they decided to completely go small. They have absolutely no bigs. So, how did that work out for them? Well, check the standings.
When these two giants collided during the regular season, it was epic. And, of course, emotional for Thunder fans. The Westbrook game was a magical night as the Thunder made a tribute video and cemented his 11-year career in OKC. On top of that, the Thunder won the game.
Overall, they won the series two games to one. Both Thunder wins were by single digits
Chris Paul came into OKC and flipped the script. Paul going into the season was thought of as being on his last legs. That perception was not reality. Paul came in and worked with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and unified this team. The savvy veteran averaged 17.6 points per game on 48.9 percent shooting. He also shot 36.5 percent from behind the arc. Chris Paul averaged 6.7 assists per game as well as 5.0 rebounds per game. Not to mention, he was also was number one in clutch basket stats in the whole league last year.
Shai Alexander is another key piece on this Thunder team. Shai has really grown under CP3’s leadership. He seemed to grow as a player right in front of Thunder fans’ eyes. Shai Gilgious Alexander averaged 19.0 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting. His true shooting number of 56.8 percent is also a key to OKC’s success. Alexander also averaged 3.3 assists per game.
The Big Kiwi
Steven Adams, the big kiwi, is also a key player in this series. Adams averaged 10.9 points per game on 59.2 percent shooting. In addition to his presence inside, he grabbed 9.3 boards per game. He provides a force for which a three-guard offense can effectively run with his inside pressure. Big kiwi can then pass out to the guards for an open look.
James Harden is a superstar in this league. Harden averages 34.3 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the field. Also, 35.5 percent from behind the arc. Harden’s offensive game is dynamic and if you are not careful, he can drive past you as well as get to the free-throw line with his lateral quickness. He does this especially well and goes to the line quite often.
Russell Westbrook will play a vital role in this series. A lot of people did not understand this move in the beginning. Two ball-dominant guards together, how will that work? Well, Russell Westbrook found a way to make it work. Westbrook averages 27.2 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field. He is also averaging 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.
Eric Gordon is the third piece for the Rockets success. Gordon averages about 14.0 points per game while shooting almost 36.0 percent from the field and close to 31.0 percent from three. In addition, Gordon will see more time during the Westbrook injury. So his 22.0 percent usage rate will definitely go up.
Keys to Victory for Thunder
The Thunder’s three-guard system needs to be humming on all cylinders. Dennis Schroder needs to be the sixth man of the year once again for the Thunder to be effective. The Thunder’s perimeter defense needs to be stellar against this Rockets team. The Rockets attempt the most threes per game. Lastly, OKC has to establish the inside game with Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel which will open up the dribble-drive chances for the guards. And always get back on defense. Stay focused on this end and eliminate easy buckets. Pound the glass. This takes away extra opportunities for the Rockets.
Keys to Victory for the Rockets
The Rockets need to play excellent defense. They need to match the lateral quickness of OKC as well as taking the dribble-drive away from CP3 and Shai Alexander. Houston needs to guard the rim and protect the mid-range. Moreover, the Rockets need to protect the paint as well. Lastly, make the Thunder’s perimeter defense work. As well as get easy transition buckets. The Thunder have a tendency to take mental breaks while they are in transition defense. So, control the pace. The Rockets are ranked third in pace, so take advantage.
The Thunders three-guard attack is predicated on inside to outside movement and the dribble-drive. As well as the three-pointer. The Oklahoma City Thunder as a team shoots the three-ball at a better clip than the Rockets.
The Rockets counter with pace. Their run and gun offense can wear any team down. However, the Russell Westbrook injury effects this pace some. He can be a one-man fast break. Russ being out may come and bite the Rockets, but we will see
My Verdict Prediction
The winner of this series is going to be the Thunder. I predict that Oklahoma City will win in six games. The series will be a tough battle, but I think the Oklahoma City Thunder’s size and speed may be too much for the Rockets. Houston may lead the series right now, but there are still plenty of games to be played.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images