NBA Playoffs: Rockets set OKC Thunder opponent record from 3-point range
After whoever draws the hopeless assignment of guarding James Harden, Thunder center Steven Adams might have the most difficult defensive task against the Rockets.
How can Adams both defend P.J. Tucker, a 3-point shooting center who camps in the corner, and fulfill his typical big man duties of protecting the paint when other Rockets attack the rim?
“It’s actually quite simple,” Adams said, “but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Everyone’s spacing on their team. They just open up the lane. What it comes down to is actually being disciplined on when you should help. Once they get the ball flown around to whoever, that’s really, really tough to guard.”
In other words, just because you know the Rockets are going to shoot half a hundred 3-pointers — a simple enough game plan — doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop.
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The Rockets attempted 52 3-pointers Tuesday night in their 123-108 Game 1 win against the Thunder. It was a record by an Oklahoma City playoff opponent that might be broken again by the end of the series.
The previous high was 45 3-pointers, which the Warriors attempted in an unforgettable Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals. The Rockets shattered that mark by seven as they outscored the Thunder 60-39 from 3-point range.
When Houston shoots 39% from beyond the arc, as it did Tuesday night, the math will almost always equal a Rockets win due to their abundance of attempts.
“Certainly that’s hard to overcome,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
But Donovan said “it wasn’t the threes” that did the Thunder in.
“We’ve got to do a better job at the point of attack, especially guarding the basketball,” he said. “I thought we got beat, we got put in rotations, and they found open shooters … We’ve gotta do a better job containing the basketball off the dribble.”
Eric Gordon, playing the role of the injured Russell Westbrook, relentlessly attacked the Thunder inside. Other Rockets did the same, leaving kick-out, corner 3-pointers open.
Harden led the Rockets with 37 points and six 3-pointers. Jeff Green and Gordon finished with 22 and 21.
Ben McLemore shot 4-of-7 from 3-point range off the bench.
By scoring 123 points, the Rockets fell a basket shy of setting another record by a Thunder playoff opponent.
“It starts off with making sure we’re back in transition,” Adams said of what to correct for Game 2. “It’s just the awareness and attention to detail on those things. The faster we get back, the faster we can set up our defense.”