As most basketball fans should know, the Thunder took a big loss yesterday to the Rockets, 123-108. The Rockets played some great basketball and did exactly what they needed to do, hold down Steven Adams in the paint, and don't let Chris Paul roam free. It didn't help the Thunder's case that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had an off game as well. Chris Paul ultimately had a good game despite his poor performance in the first half. Danilo Gallinari had a great game despite being guarded by Robert Covington. Slowing down Gallinari will definitely have to be a point of emphasis for the Rockets.
The focal point for this article today, though, is about what the Thunder need to do in order to fight for a win today. The Thunder struggled with movement off the ball and that was their main weakness. They need to utilize their talents, with great passers in Chris Paul and Dennis Schroeder, and make off the ball cuts to the hoop and through the paint so that they may be able to get open whether it's in the mid-range or out on the three point line. Although he can shoot, Chris Paul shouldn't be the one taking the most shots. Paul needs to be the facilitator of this team like he's been during the regular season. The Rockets may be able to keep up with off ball cuts, but with bigger men in the middle like Adams and Gallinari, Rocket defenders will have a hard time getting past those big bodies. Plus, with Paul or Schroeder passing it, the ball will always be there quickly, and accurately.
The Thunder aren't a terrific shooting team, so they will need to take advantage of the paint and let Gallinari be the one shooting threes. Given Gallinari's height, he will need to always follow his shots and possibly get the offensive rebound over smaller guys in the paint. Adams will need to consistently box out and get rebounds as well, and it would only help if Gilgeous-Alexander got in the paint and fought for rebounds as well. With Nerlens Noel backing up Adams at the center position, he will need to keep up his terrific shot blocking, but with less fouling. Billy Donovan wants to give him more minutes but most of the time he can't because of foul trouble. Noel is another big man who can get in the paint and fight for boards in the absence of Adams.
On defense, the Thunder have to close out on shooters and not over commit to a specific person. They should already know that Ben McLemore is a deadly three point shooter, yet they let him get off 7 attempts and he made 4 of them. The Thunder should definitely be running a 3-2 defense with three defenders up top and two down low, this way they can create a wall against Harden, but also be able to close out on shooters like McLemore, Jeff Green, Eric Gordon, and so on.
The Thunder have a good group of guys, but they will need to fight much harder and execute plays much better if they want to keep up with this fast and feisty Rockets team.