Kevin McHale tried to warn his team. The veteran of many postseason wars knew what was in store for his team in Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs.
When McHale tried to explain to his youthful Houston Rockets what going through the playoffs was going to be like, he gave up knowing it was something they would have to experience first-hand.
Well, the experience the Rockets got Sunday against Oklahoma City is one that’s going to be with them for a while. Facing the top-seed in the West, they allowed the moment to swallow them up on their way to a 120-91 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With Houston’s James Harden making his return to Oklahoma City, the Thunder didn’t allow him to create any late-game drama. They did exactly what good teams do by putting their feet on the Rockets’ throat and not letting up.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant shot 7-for-15 from the field for a game-high 24 points. Point guard Russell Westbrook finished two rebounds away from a triple double. He collected 19 points, 10 assists and eight boards. Serge Ibaka added 17 points, seven boards and three blocks.
Harden paced the Rockets with 20 points on 6-for 19 shooting and was only 1-for-6 from behind the arc. The frontline of Greg Smith, Chandler Parsons and Omar Asik were held to a combined 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Game 2 is Wednesday back in Oklahoma City.
Houston began the night going 0-for-9 from the field. Its only points in the first six minutes came on a pair of free throws. It was evident the playoff atmosphere had gotten to the Rockets.
Despite that, Oklahoma City didn’t take advantage of Houston’s cold shooting. After building its lead to 13 points, the Thunder allowed the Rockets to climb back into the contest behind the Wizardry of Harden. The Thunder led 26-19 after one quarter of action.
After Oklahoma City went up 20-8, Houston outscored them 30-18 to tie the game at 38-38 in the next eight minutes.
It was Ibaka’s defensive tenacity that got the Thunder rolling again. His blocked shots led to easy fastbreak points. Oklahoma City went on a 22-9 run to close out the half and lead 60-47.
Oklahoma City continued to pour it on in the second. Houston had no answer for Durant‘s shot making and the overall speed and athleticism of the Thunder.
“We just wanted to take care of our home court,” Durant said. “We haven’t done anything yet.”