The Houston Rockets won Game 4 against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they face a significantly tougher task on Wednesday night in Game 5 as they try and stretch the take the series back to a sixth game in Houston. The Thunder will enter this game as big favorites to finish off the series.
The Rockets finally won Game 4 after losing the first three games of the series, but it didn’t happen in the way that most would have expected. Jeremy Lin was sidelined and didn’t play in Game 4, while James Harden struggled scoring just 15 points on 4-12 shooting, including 0-4 from beyond the arc.
Instead, guard Patrick Beverley scored 17 points and Houston’s big men controlled the game from the inside. Chandler Parsons knocked down 27 points including 3-6 from three-point range and Omer Asik picked up 14 rebounds and 18 points. Coming back from a 3-0 deficit is almost unheard of in NBA playoff history, but if Houston are going to pull it off then they need that level of play from their complimentary players and a significant upturn in the play of Harden.
The Thunder now know that they will need to make their 2013 playoff run without the services of Russell Westbrook. However, there are serious concerns that superstar scorer Durant still isn’t taking control of games in the way that he should. Durant took less shots than Westbrook replacement Reggie Jackson. He picked up eight rebounds, six assists and 38 points, but Oklahoma City need their top player to take more responsibility for closing games out especially as things get tougher in the later rounds.
The other place of concern for coach Scott Brooks is Serge Ibaka. The big man continues to be frustratingly inconsistent. He hasn’t been a significant offensive presence during this first round series and even more of a concern was the fact that he and Kendrick Perkins looked outmatched defensively on the inside against Asik and Parsons in Game 4. With Westbrook out, Ibaka becomes OKC’s second star and they will need him to start playing like it.
Betting Preview: Oklahoma City (-9) vs. Houston
The Thunder will almost certainly win this game and close out the series. However, there are significant questions still for this team to answer if they hope to return to the NBA finals. There’s no doubt that Durant needs to be more assertive and needs to take control of games. It just doesn’t seem to be the case that he wants to do that.
I fully expect the Rockets to come out firing in this one and while Oklahoma City should have too much, they won’t beat a nine-point spread.
The Pick: Houston (+9) [5dimes.eu]
Writer Record Against The Spread: 13-7