By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin McHale tried to warn his team. The veteran of many playoff 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 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 Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With Houston’s James Harden making his playoff 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 foots on the Rockets’ throats and not letting up.
Harden lead 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.
Kevin Durant shot 7-for-15 from the field for a game high 24 points. Russell Westbrook came two rebounds away from a triple double. He collected 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Serge Ibaka added 17 points, seven boards and three blocks.
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, they 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 the Thunder went up 20-8, the Rockets 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 half. 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.”
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