HOUSTON — Nothing about the ease with which the Rockets won Game 1 on Sunday night nor the style of play that dictated their victory has Houston resting on its laurels in advance of the second test against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With Game 2 set for Wednesday night at Toyota Center, the Rockets are not only expecting a more intense and dedicated effort from the Thunder, but they also are anticipating a series of adjustments to prevent the result that enabled Houston to grab a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference first-round playoff series.
In rolling to a 118-87 win, the Rockets found ample space to operate and score at the rim, producing 62 points in the paint and 31 second-chance points against the bigger, brawnier Oklahoma City forward line.
The Thunder pressed Rockets shooters on the perimeter, limiting Houston to 10-of-33 shooting on 3-pointers. The downside to the execution of that strategy was a layup line for Houston.
“That’s all our offense is about: read what the defense gives us and just take it,” said Rockets guard James Harden, who shook off an 0-of-6 start on 3-point attempts to score a game-high 37 points. “Last game they did a really good job of taking away our threes, so we tried to get into the paint, attack and get layups. We just take what they give us.
“If they change it, we’ve got to counter what they do. We’ll figure it out once the game starts.”
Harden converted 9 of 12 shots at the rim, repeatedly victimizing the Thunder off the dribble following defensive switches on the perimeter. Oklahoma City saw glaring examples of indecisiveness during film study and vowed to enact change.
“Looking at video, it was definitely down to positioning and getting those reads on when to go,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “You can’t be premature about it, otherwise they do what they do. We cleared it up a lot more, bigs and guards. We’ve got to make sure we come out more aggressive, aggressive and physicality. Forcing them to do stuff rather than letting them do stuff.”
That applies for the Thunder on offense, too. MVP front-runner Russell Westbrook shot just 6 of 23 from the floor and committed nine turnovers as Oklahoma City sputtered on offense in the second half. As expected, the Rockets threw several bodies at Westbrook, with guard Patrick Beverley leading that charge.
Westbrook wasn’t too keen on complimenting the Rockets’ defensive vigor in the aftermath of film study from the Game 1 carnage.
“I don’t watch the other team, I just watch what I’m doing,” Westbrook said. “I never worry about what other guys are doing. It doesn’t bother me; I’ve seen it all already, and it doesn’t worry (me).”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is stressing to his team that Sunday doesn’t matter. Nor do the results from the regular season in which the Rockets defeated the Thunder three times in four meetings. Houston will carry a four-game series winning streak into Wednesday, a streak that means precious little.
“The problem is you don’t get a head start. It’s going to be 0-0,” D’Antoni said. “I’m not worried about what we’ve done in the past. We’ve got to do something (in Game 2).”