By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Another fast start for the Thunder ended with another disappointing finish and this time it wasn’t just the game that ended, that entire season came to a close too.
The Thunder led 22-16 after the 1st quarter but were outscored 33-22 coming down the stretch of what became a 105-99 loss to Houston in Game 5 of their playoff series.
It’s the first time since 2010 (the first year the Thunder made the playoffs) that the team has been knocked out in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The 4th quarter once again proved to be OKC’s undoing.
Going into the last 12 minutes the Thunder led 77-72 and had held the high-powered Houston offense to just 36.8 percent shooting overall and an anemic 16.1 percent (5-for-31) on threes.
But that five point lead turned into a five point deficit with Russell Westbrook sitting on the bench. When he returned the struggles continued, this time, he didn’t have the magic formula that had saved the Thunder several times during the regular season.
In the 4th quarter OKC managed to hit just 26.9 percent from the field overall while missing all 10 attempts from beyond the arc and half of the tries from the free throw line.
Westbrook, who finished with a near triple double with 47 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, was just 2-for-11 in the 4th quarter and 0-for-5 from three. Russ even missed a couple of free throws.
The Thunder can take some solace in that they seemed to get better as the series progressed, at least from the 1st through the 3rd quarters. And the starters, for the most part, outplayed the Rockets first five.
But when Westbrook was off the court, the Thunder just couldn’t find their way.
During the series with Westbrook ON the floor the Thunder’s plus/minus was plus-15. With Westbrook taking a breather on the bench the numbers fell to the sub-basement, dropping to minus-58.
By comparison when James Harden was ON the floor for the Rockets, Houston’s plus/minus was a plus-19 and with Harden OFF the numbers actually went up to a plus-24 thanks to the Rockets outstanding bench play.
It’s going to be something Thunder GM Sam Presti will have to address in the off-season but with salary cap issues looming it’s going to be a tight fit changing things very much.
As the day moves along we’ll be posting videos of head coach Billy Donovan and players speaking to reporters during the end of season news conferences.