The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets squared off for the first game of their series in the 2013 NBA Playoffs on Sunday evening, and this time around, experienced trumped youth: The Thunder beat the Rockets 120-91 in front of their home crowd, thanks to a tremendous first half effort.
The win was the largest margin of victory for the franchise since moving to Oklahoma City.
For the Thunder, Kevin Durant led with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Russell Westbrook helped out with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists. Serge Ibaka also had a big night, nailing seven of 11 shots for 17 points. From the bench, Kevin Martin also had a big night, with 16 points.
James Harden led the Rockets with 20 points and rebounds, and was the only starter for Houston that showed up against Oklahoma City.
The Thunder started the game extremely hot, going on an early 6-0 run and leading by as many as 11 in the first quarter. Houston on the other hand could not have been any colder; they shot poorly, making just 1 of 10 shots from the floor, and their first field goal did not come until nearly the halfway mark, when James Harden laid one in. It looked as if the Rockets would mail this one in, but a scoring boost late in the first quarter gave them the burst they needed to be competitive.
Fueled by a 13-2 run to close the first quarter and start the second, Houston climbed back into it. The Thunder were still finding and making their shots, but so were the Rockets, so much so that they knotted it up with OKC at 40 in the middle of the quarter. Ibaka gave OKC a bit of an edge when he slammed down a monster dunk, but it was voided when Houston scored a basket of its own on the subsequent possession. Speaking of Ibaka, he had three tremendous blocks in the first half, the last of which allowed for a big-time transition play for the Thunder: Martin fed Kendrick Perkins the ball on the fast break, and Perkins jammed it in the hoop furiously to extend OKC’s lead to 50-44.
It was Westbrook who stood out the most in the first half through, relentlessly attacking the basket and feeding passes to open teammates.
The final two minutes of the half were brutal for Houston, who found themselves slipping further and further away from Oklahoma City. They closed the half on the bad end of a 20-7 run–which gave the Thunder a 60-47 lead–and headed into the locker room looking for a solution to OKC’s dominant play.
Oklahoma City’s 60 points in the first half were the most first-half points by this squad in team history.
The second half told a story similar to that of the first: The Thunder dominated Houston all over the court, and the Rockets were powerless to stop them. OKC outscored Houston 29-19 in the third quarter, including a pair of three balls from Ibaka and the most interesting lob OKC has done in a long time: Perkins stole the ball and strode down the court on a fast break before dishing it to Ibaka for the jam. Houston on the other hand couldn’t get anything going, missing eight shots in a row to close the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Durant started it off by showing Houston he wasn’t letting off the gas yet, dunking over a few Rockets defenders in the opening seconds. Then Russell Westbrook drove basket to basket in 3.2 seconds on OKC’s next possession for a layup, and the rout continued on. The exclamation point of the Game One blowout came when Derek Fisher pulled up from behind the right side of the arc and sailed a tre ball into the net, putting the Thunder up 102-69. OKC pulled its started with around five minutes to go in the half, and coasted to victory from then on.
Oklahoma City did just everything better than Houston on Sunday night: The Thunder had seven blocks to Houston’s zero; shot over 53-percent to the Rocket’s abismal 36-percent, and out-rebounded them 45-37.
Houston will have to find a way to stop OKC, or this series will be over sooner than they would like. Fortunately for them, they have three days to figure it out.
With the win, Oklahoma City takes a 1-0 lead in their first game of the playoffs. Game Two of the Oklahoma City/Houston series is set for Wed., Apr. 24. at Chesapeake Arena.