Rockets 118, Thunder 87 - Rockets Emphatically Take Game 1

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The Houston Rockets faithful inside the Toyota Center was rocking in anticipation of Houston’s first exciting Playoff basketball game in two years (let’s throw last year out the window, shall we?). The crowd was wearing red, the Rockets donned their beautiful black uniforms, and the Oklahoma City Thunder wore their neon orange getups – making for the worst aesthetic for a television viewer in all of this weekend’s action. But, I digress…

In a matchup featuring the two likely finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player Award, it was the role players who made the first major impressions on this game. For the Rockets, none other than Patrick Beverley imposed his will on both ends of the floor, hitting his first two threes and picking Russell Westbrook’s pocket to get himself an easy dunk.

Beverley’s impact would be felt all over this game. He was, expectedly, a thorn in Westbrook’s side, and his constant energy translated to 11 points on 80% shooting and seven rebounds in the first half.

On the other hand, Andre Roberson was really OKC’s only significant contributor not named Russell Westbrook on both ends of the floor. He played James Harden extremely well in the first quarter, not allowing the ‘Beard’ to find any space on the perimeter – forcing Harden to airball two threes early. The other end of the floor saw Roberson nail a trio of three-point attempts in the first half, which was frustrating for Rockets fans because he was only a 24% shooter from out there during the regular season.

Houston saw incredible contributions from their big men, namely Clint Capela, Nene, and Ryan Anderson. Capela and Nene contributed a combined 17 points, but, more importantly, they helped control the glass against one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Houston held a six-rebound advantage on the offensive glass, which helped lead to a 21-0 advantage in terms of second chance points. Ryan Anderson couldn’t buy a basket from downtown, but he did haul in seven first half rebounds – always a good thing for the Rockets.


Despite starting this game hitting just one of his seven field goal attempts (credit Roberson for making him uncomfortable on the perimeter), James Harden hit eight of his next eleven by attacking the rim. Harden’s first step was just too much for Roberson to handle at times, and he absolutely DESTROYED any defender that switched on him. Houston held a 59-54 lead going into halftime.

The Rockets shot just 19% (3/16) from the three-point line in the first half, but finally started to find their range in the third period – hitting four from beyond the arc. Unsurprisingly, Beverley was responsible for two of these makes, but they came after he was hit with a shoulder block that J.J. Watt (who was supporting the Rockets from the first row) would be proud of.

Beverley was understandably rattled for a second after that hit, but he shrugged it off, drained two threes, and galvanized the Rockets into putting this game away much earlier than people expected. The Rockets held a big lead by the end of the third (89-74), but it was the early fourth-quarter minutes that Harden rested that were truly crucial. Thanks to Beverley’s continued brilliance (and unbelievable defense), the Rockets managed to build the lead up to 22 before Harden even checked back in.

Defensively, the Rockets were incredible in Game 1, specifically with regards to Russell Westbrook. Sure, he posted a nice stat line of 22 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists, but he only shot 26% from the field and forced nine turnovers. And not only did Westbrook struggle, but only two other Thunder players managed to score in double-digits – and no one else got double-digit rebounds.

On the other hand, the Rockets had outstanding games from Harden, Beverley, Capela, and Nene. Throw in Lou William’s (inefficient) 11 points, and the Rockets had five double-digit scorers. Also, despite his poor shooting, Ryan Anderson hauled in a game-high 12 rebounds. Considering Anderson’s, Williams’, Eric Gordon’s, and Trevor Ariza’s ineffectiveness offensively, this blowout win has to be viewed as a statement game for the Rockets – a statement that displayed just how much firepower this Rockets team really has.

Game 2 is on Wednesday, and you can bet OKC will be better prepared to retaliate.

Game Ball 

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

The first game ball of the postseason goes to Patrick Beverley.

In a game that saw James Harden put up insane numbers (as we all expected), it was Patrick Beverley that led the way for this to happen. Harden really struggled to start this game, but Beverley didn’t. In fact, for the first few minutes, it felt like Beverly was the only Rocket who remembered that this was a Playoff game. His efficient shooting from all over the floor, incredible defense, and never-ending enthusiasm set the tone for this game – and, hopefully, for this series.

Where would the Rockets be without Patrick Beverley?

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