Houston scored 20 3 points as a team, edging the OKC by 21 deep.
Danilo Gallinari led the Thunder with 29 points, while Chris Paul dropped an assist less than a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine dimes – but much of Paul’s goals came as the match had already escaped in the second half. . OKC looked dead on both sides and will have to figure out how to better move the ball to break through the Houston defense, which has been formidable all night.
Actually, let’s talk about that Houston defense for a second. It was a championship effort, and the change really stalled the OKC attack. Houston rotations were there all night. The guys were flying towards the shooters, pinching their wings to seemingly cut off any misbehavior. OKC just couldn’t get the space or penetration to collapse the defense, and Houston kept that energy going for complete possessions, multiple efforts, communication, the whole thing.
Houston is considered an attacking team, its small-ball lineups discussed through the goal scoring lens and wide open lanes ripe for penetration. But when their switch defense clicks, they can be a monster. It is very difficult to find open looks when they are tied together.
OKC did not help itself by succumbing to change. They need to move more, both ball and player. Paul was too passive as a goalscorer for too long, and by the time he really started pushing the limits on scoring, the game was over. This cannot be the case in game 2.
If you’re Houston, you love what you’ve seen of Gordon in this game. When he’s playing aggressive like that, looking for his offense, Westbrook’s absence is manageable in the short term. By the time Westbrook returns, if the Rockets get that kind of peripheral performance, it will be difficult to stop them. It becomes simple: Harden draws doubles, Westbrook attacks the open space and either ends kicks himself at the shooters who are in rhythm.
It’s only one game, but in a series that many saw as arguably the most even in the first round, the Rockets clearly looked like the better team on both sides and could be dangerous in the thick of this playoff.