In their first postseason together, the Houston Rockets gave Oklahoma City a scare, but it was going to take more than just a two game surge for the Thunder to wilt.
Along with those two wins, Houston picked up enough valuable postseason experience to grow a little five o’clock shadow stubble. While OKC, even without Russell Westbrook, has been roaming the playoffs woods long enough to grow and nurture a full mutton chop worth of experience.
Kevin Martin’s 21 point first-half surge was exactly what the Thunder were waiting for, as Kevin Durant galloped slowly out of the gates. In the second half, Martin pulled on his invisibility cloak and snuck out of the Toyota Center, but it didn’t matter by then. In the second half Durant and Fisher went on the attack and sent the Rockets home with an L.
The Rocket liftoff was a success, but Daryl Morey has more work to do in the offseason to further improve on Houston’s nucleus. Kevin McHale altered the starting lineup with the frequency of a plastic surgeon throughout the series because he had no other choice.
Aside from James Harden and Chandler Parsons, the Rockets lineup is composed of recycled players and it may get shaken up slightly this summer.
Last summer’s prized acquisition, Omer Asik was a backup Bulls center averaging 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. In his third season, Asik entrenched himself in the post for Houston’s starting lineup as the screener for Harden and Jeremy Linjured in the pick and roll. However, Asik will get relegated to the bench if Dwight Howard gives Houston a chance.
Patrick Beverley was a spark after Game 1 and became enemy No. 1 after Game 2, when his hip ended Westbrook’s season. This was his first NBA season after stamping his passport at a plethora of stops en route to the Houston roster this season.
Every team’s uptick starts somewhere and for the Rockets, this year counts as their origin story. Three years ago, Harden and the Thunder pushed the Lakers to the brink of a seventh game. Harden doesn’t rock a mask and a cowl, but in his first series as a Rocket, Beard Man lived up to his top billing. However, he needs a sidekick of his own to share the burden and continue the Rockets upward trajectory. Parsons is coming into his own, but he’s an ancillary character in the Rockets project.
The Thunder will advance slightly scarred, but for Houston, the real work has just begun.