There is a common notion with the Oklahoma City Thunder that they are one of the best teams in the league at playing a small lineup because they have Kevin Durant who can be deadly when playing the four.
For the most part, this is true. It is near impossible for any power forward in the NBA to cover Durant.
What about when the other team is going small too? This is where the small Thunder lineups is no longer such a great advantage.
Offensively, OKC is always a beast with their small lineups. They are shaky on defense though because they don’t have a lot of experience playing these smaller lineups.
For the Houston Rockets to get back in this series, they need to totally commit to small ball lineups.
We’ve seen the New York Knicks and Miami Heat kill the Thunder this way earlier this season. The Rockets won’t be able to be as effective as New York or Miami but they can at least give it their best shot against the Thunder this way.
The small lineups will help spread the floor of course which will create more driving lanes for James Harden, who was smothered for the most part in Game 1. The Rockets should be able to get more open threes this way as well and also will lure the Thunder into playing Derek Fisher more minutes.
We saw in Game 1 Omer Asik manhandle Nick Collison when they were the only two bigs on the floor. We also saw Serge Ibaka get lost defensively a few times when he was playing center.
The Thunder will match up with the Rockets when they go small. They won’t come out with two bigs.
There is a chance too that Scott Brooks will go with Collison instead of Ibaka if he continues to get lost in his rotations. This will be huge for Houston because Ibaka killed them offensively and any minutes you can keep him off the floor will be big for the Rockets.
Houston is probably not coming back in this series and going to win more than a game or two.
We did see some instances in Game 1 where they looked like they could give the Thunder problems. There only chance will be completely committing to the small lineups and maybe they win a game or two.