Thunder Make Too Many Mistakes in Giving Rockets 115-112 Win
By Randy Renner
It was a heck of an individual battle between Russell Westbrook and James Harden and a heck of a team battle between the Thunder and the Rockets but in the end the Thunder made too many mistakes to win the game.
Too many missed free throws (8), too many turnovers (18 leading to 22 Houston points) and too many missed layups (more than I could count). It all added up to another close loss to a good team, 115-112 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook finished with his 11th triple-double of the season with 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. It's his third 40-point triple-double of the season.
Former Thunder sixth man James Harden scored 10 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter including a couple of dagger threes against his old team.
Even woth all the mistakes the Thunder had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds but Anthony Morrow, who was 6-for-8 on threes, was inbounding the ball instead of setting up for a shot. He got the ball into Westbrook who thought he was fouled and he launched a 35-footer to try to get three free throws, but the officials didn't blow their whistles, the buzzer sounded and that was that.
Asked about the final play afte the game head coach Scott Brooks said he assumed the Rockets would foul in that situation, "they've done that in the past." He went on to say if they didn't try to foul "there were some actions coming up."
Asked if those actions included getting the ball to Morrow the coach would say only, "yeah, there were some actions."
Apparently the reason the ball wasn't thrown in directly to the Thunder's best 3-point shooter was the fear that Houston would foul him immediately to prevent him from launching a potential game-tying shot.
But there were plenty of other problems other than the last play. Shooting just 69.2 percent on free throws was a big one. In a 3-point loss the Thunder missed eight free throws. Those 18 turnovers turned into 22 Rockets points and the Thunder continued to have problems defensing the paint, giving up 54 points inside.
The perimeter defense was actually pretty good on everyone not named Harden. He was 6-for-9 on threes but the rest of the Rockets combined to go just 2-for-19.
As bad as the Thunder were shooting free throws the Rockets were even worse, shooting just 62 percent but they got to the line a whopping 50 times, making just 31. But that amount pf free throws shows you how aggressive they were in going afte the Thunder.
Once you get past the disappointment of losing a game like this you have to admit it's rather amazing the Thunder could even stay with the Rockets playing without Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson and Nick Collison.
They know they will play the rest of the season, however long it lasts, without Durant. But there is increasing hope that Ibaka, Roberson and Collison coule be back before the end of the regular season.
All three have increased their workload during rehab. Roberson and Collison worked against each other a couple of hours before today's tipoff.
Brooks continues to say they won't play until they're 100 percent ready and none of the three has practiced woth the team yet.
Hopefully that day is coming soon because with those guys the Thunder will stand at least a puncher's chance of doing some damage to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. Without them they may not have much of a chance to even make the playoffs.
Five games are left over the next nine days and it may very well come down to the last game on the last day of the regular season to find out if the Thunder have some playoff life.