After a dominant win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in game one of their Western Conference first round playoff series, the Rockets took the practice floor Tuesday knowing they can be better.
“Defensively, we can be even tighter, rebound the basketball even better, not give them second opportunities, and just offensively, obviously, we had a couple of shots that we forced,” Rockets guard James Harden said.
Harden made that statement after a film session that saw he and his teammates review a game that they won by 31 by surrendering just 87 points, outrebounding the NBA’s best rebounding team by 15.
“You’ll never have a perfect game,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We gotta get it better, and we know that they’ll be a lot better.”
The Rockets expect to see a different Thunder team from the one they saw on Sunday both in how they play and they way they go about it, especially at the defensive end, where they switched most pick and rolls, in order to stop the Rockets 3-point attack. That worked, but it left them vulnerable in other areas, which Harden and company attacked at will.
“If a team wants to take us away from our 3-point shots, we’re going to get points in the paint,” Rockets forward Ryan Anderson said. “Obviously, Nene and Clint (Capela) and Obviously James going to the basket, they did a great job last game by taking advantage of that, taking advantage of those opportunities, and if they want to focus a little bit more on stopping us in the paint, it’s just going to open up our shooting.”
Anderson would seemingly be the beneficiary of a change in Oklahoma City’s strategy. He missed all four of his attempts from behind the arc. Trevor Ariza was given just one look from out there. The Rockets averaged a little less than 41 shots from long distance in the regular season, but took just 33 Sunday, making just 10. “
“Last game, they did a really good job of taking away our threes,” Harden said. “We just tried to get into the paint and attack and get layups. We just take what they give us.”
What if the Thunder change that strategy?
“If they change it then we’ve gotta counter what they do,” Harden said.
The Rockets did what they had to do Sunday and won a game on their homecourt. On Wednesday, they’ll try and do the same because they know that regardless of what happened in game one they have still have to win three more games, and going to Oklahoma City for Friday’s game three with the series even at a game apiece is far from ideal.