The Thunderous Intentions staff got together to answer some questions we had after Game 1 of the Oklahoma City Thunder-Houston Rockets series.
1. Were you surprised by how much the Thunder dominated the Rockets?
Andrew Kennedy: Not at all. The Thunder are just such a bad matchup for the Rockets and it showed in Game 1. you knew OKC would come out strong to start the playoffs. When the Thunder play focused like they did, they should have no trouble dominating Houston.
Trenise Ferreira: Yes and no. Yes, because this is the Playoffs, and you expect teams to be really competitive at this point in the season. However, it wasn’t all that surprising, as the Thunder ave averaged over 120 points against Houston all season. The Rockets couldn’t find a way to contain all of OKC’s threats during the regular season, and Sunday night’s playoff game proved to be no different.
Eli Friedman: I wasn’t so surprised, as I was more on the “oh i knew this was gonna happen” kind of reaction. The Thunder are just quite simply the better team. More athletic, more experienced, more talented, and just an all around better team. There was no moment in last night’s game where the Rockets actually threatened the Thunder, and when they seemed too when it was 40-40, the Thunder just turned the switch and dominated.
Cyrus Geller: I was actually a little surprised at how badly the Rockets lost. Obviously the Thunder are much more talented than Houston, but I was a little concerned with the Rockets ability to shoot from the outside. If they get hot, they can challenge any team in the league. However, the Thunder showed that they have the defensive capability of shutting down the three point line and once you close that up against the Rockets, they will really struggle.
2. What was the best thing you took away about the Thunder from Game 1?
AK: Serge Ibaka’s big game. Ibaka needs to be the third scorer for the Thunder in the playoffs and Game 1 was a step in that direction. Russell Westbrook did a nice job incorporating Ibaka and finding him in the offense.
TF: The Thunder look like a team that is ready and capable to compete with anybody. If they continue to come out the gates fiery like they did against Houston, the teams in the West will be hard-pressed to slow them down. One thing that really stood out to me was how well this team shoots when it can establish a rhythm; they are nearly impossible to stop.
EF: The play of Serge Ibaka. I always talk about how vital and important this guy is to the Thunder playoff run. Some question Oklahoma City’s lack of an inside scoring presence, but if Ibaka can be the player he was last night, the Thunder are almost unstoppable. Now, you add a fourth 15 a night kind of guy to go along with Martin, Durant and Westbrook. The Rockets play a decently small line-up, but Ibaka just dominated last night.
CG: The major thing I took away from this win was the Thunder’s defense. The Rockets were the best scoring team in the league coming into the playoffs, and the Thunder totally shut them down. If OKC can do this consistently throughout the playoffs, they may have a shot at the NBA title.
3. How many games will the Rockets win in this series and what will it take for them to win any?
AK: I think they win one but no more than that. I still think the only way they win a game is if James Harden goes off in one. I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t ever happen either and the Thunder sweep them.
TF: If the Rockets play mail in Game 2 like they did Game 1, they will be lucky to win any games! I want to believe they have more fight than this, and all it takes is a win for Houston on their home turf for this series to stabilize. For them to get a footing, they have to find a way to impede Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s ability to score at will; they dominated in the paint on Sunday and really gave the Rockets headaches. When this series comes to a close, I anticipate the Rockets will win…2 games.
EF: Maybe 1. And if Houston wins a game, they would have to shot there way into a win. Last night, Houston jacked up 36 threes and only made eight of them, while the Thunder shot 24 and made 10. So, it the Rockets would find a way to snatch a game, the Thunder would have to play absolutely atrocious and Houston would have to be on absolute fire from downtown.
CG: I will give the Rockets one game just because of James Harden. Harden is a top ten player in the league in my opinion, and he is capable of going off for 40 any night. I think Harden will do this in either games 3 or 4 in Houston, and he will at least save the Rockets from the embarrassment of a sweep.
4. Are the Thunder the favorite to win the West right now?
AK: I think they should be considered this. There are definitely some teams out there that could give the Thunder trouble in a series. OKC still seems to be the team with the best chance to make it back to the NBA Finals.
TF: If the Thunder aren’t the favorite in the West, they should be. As fundamentally sound as The Spurs are, I don’t see them going toe-to-toe with Oklahoma City through seven games. The Clippers could prove to be formidable, but I anticipate that the Thunder will storm their way through the West, onto the Promised Land.
EF: Right now, I would say so. Judging just from Game one’s from around the West, I would say so. Denver had to win on a buzzer beater, the Clippers haven’t beaten the Thunder all year, and the Spurs can’t handle Oklahoma City’s uptempo game in a seven game series. Oklahoma City took the regular season crown and it looks as if they are the favorite to be once again the Western Conference Champions.
CG: Right now I think they are, but I also thought that they were the favorites before the playoffs even began. The west is very weak this year and because of this, the Thunder have to be the favorites, just by default. They are just too talented for any other team out there, and barring any significant injuries, I think that they are going to steamroll their way to the finals.