We got back on the winning track last night, but you can be quite sure the cover was no consolation to the Thunder who led for that majority of the game, only to have their doors blown off by a late 10-0 run by the Rockets. Houston flexed not only their muscle, but their far greater offensive diversity – and so far, that has been the difference in this series. The Thunder, once it got down to crunch time, had only one weapon to fire, and fire away Russ did – to little avail. All you need to know about the Thunder is the LOOK on Victor Oladipo’s face when he crossed midcourt after a scrambled possession in the final minute. The Thunder needed a quick shot – ANY good shot, and Oladipo only had eyes for Russ. He launched a long cross court pass to Russ, Russ launched a brick of a chucked-up three pointer and the game was over.
Russell Westbrook tallied the first fifty-plus point triple double in NBA Playoff history… and it still wasn’t enough. Let that sink in. It STILL wasn’t enough (though taking 43 shots and going 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter also leaves room for the perplexing yet reasonable vantage point that “he didn’t play that well”).
So is the series? The old axiom is than an NBA series doesn’t begin until the home team loses, so in that parlance, this thing has yet to get underway. But visually, the Thunder look really outclassed and just can’t get enough from anyone OTHER than Russ to win this series.
Elsewhere, Kevin Durant? Nah, let’s give him the night off, no worries. The Warriors rested the former MVP to let him nurse a nagging calf injury and the Dubs were no worse for the wear; they won by 29 points and didn’t have to play in the fourth quarter after a 28-12 third quarter shut-down. This series, I will say, is in fact, OVER.
Three more games tonight as the home court shifts for Game Three and the Pacers, Bucks and Grizzlies head home. Will the change in venue change the results?
Today’s NBA Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers -2.5 at Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have been RIGHT THERE in the first two games of this series with a chance to win in the final minutes, but simply unable to make the one or two plays to get over the hump. On the flipside, Cleveland, for stretches, has had each of these games well under control also.
So, does the change in venue make the difference tonight? Well, no team in the NBA was more hit or miss home/road than the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were about a 75% winner at home and a 75% LOSER on the road. Home court is a HUGE deal for Indiana, and I think it is the decisive factor tonight.
Cleveland still wins this series in no more than six games, maybe even five. But I don’t think they are playing nearly clean enough basketball, nor inspired enough defense, to close out a team that is happy to scrap. Look for Paul George to bring a more positive vibe to the court and for his teammates to play better at home. They’ve been a few made shots away from winning either of the first two games, and role players tend to shoot much better at home.
I’ll take the small few points, but am also expecting Indiana to win straight up tonight.
Today’s NBA Pick: INDIANA PACERS +2.5