Despite the final score, the Oklahoma City Thunder actually fared well in the first half against Houston on Sunday. They led by two after the first quarter and trailed by just five at halftime.
But then the second half happened. Houston outscored Oklahoma City 59-33 and won, 118-87, as Russell Westbrook finished with nine turnovers.
It was ugly.
“Well, if you look at that first half, the Thunder played pretty well and did most of the things you have to do to beat Houston, but they got killed in the one thing they’re best at, which is rebounding,” The Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Houston (was up) 21-0 in second-chance points in the first half, (and by) the end of the game, it was 31-4. The Thunder is the best rebounding team in the NBA. Houston was somewhere in the middle. For Houston to dominate the boards that way – the Thunder has no chance if that happens. None.”
Oklahoma City was out-rebounded 56-41, including 14-7 on the offensive glass.
“That’s one thing that the Thunder can do to try to even up this series, but if you give up second-chance opportunities, you’re dead,” Tramel said. “They’re so good on offense anyway that if you just keep giving them another chance, (it’s over). The Thunder’s defense on the first shot of possessions was actually pretty good.”
The Rockets were 6-of-26 (23.1 percent) from three-point range on the first shot of a possession, but they were 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from three following an offensive rebound.
“The Thunder has got to get back on the boards,” Tramel said. “That might not be enough – it probably won’t be enough – but they got no chance if they don’t rebound.”
James Harden scored a game-high 37 points, but centers Clint Capela and Nene Hilario were unstoppable, combing for 29 points on 14-of-17 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and three blocks.
“(Enes) Kanter, his minutes are going to be limited,” Tramel said. “(Steven) Adams has got to play the pick-and-roll better, but Capela and Nene were great. They were 14-of-17 shooting in Game 1 combined. If they do that, then those guys out on the perimeter (will be open and making shots), and they’re going to score enough points to where you can’t beat them. So the Thunder has got to fortify that interior.”
Oklahoma City also needs a better game from Victor Oladipo, who shot 1-of-12 from the floor, including 0-of-6 from three, and finished with six points.
“That was his playoff debut,” Tramel said. “Sometimes guys struggle in the playoffs for the first time. The Thunder really relies on him. He’s their second-leading scorer, he’s their best outside threat – he’s a guy that’s got to produce. They really can’t win without a decent game from Victor Oladipo.”
Game 2 is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.