Rockets to continue launching treys against Thunder

NBA Basketball

The Houston Rockets didn’t see a 3-pointer they didn’t like in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Rockets launched 52 shots from behind the arc in their 123-108 win Tuesday near Orlando, and aren’t exactly looking to change it up much going into Thursday’s Game 2.

“I really feel like when we’re on, when we’re right, when we’re rolling, we shouldn’t take bad shots,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “There should only be good shots. That’s the way we have to play.”

Houston’s small-lineup, shoot-it-from-anywhere approach worked in the opener even without Russell Westbrook in the lineup. Westbrook is out with a strained right quadriceps.

James Harden (37 points, 11 rebounds) took over for stretches and Houston got plenty of production from its bench.

Instead of Westbrook sucking in defenses to open things up on the outside, it was Eric Gordon playing that role.

Gordon, starting in Westbrook’s place, had 21 points and four assists.

“We’re just trying to put the defense on their heels, give them a different look,” Rockets forward Jeff Green said. “We know the focus is going to be on James. It’s just another opportunity to take that pressure off of him with Russell out to get everybody involved.”

Westbrook will miss Game 2 as well, and there’s no timetable for his return.

“Nobody knows yet,” D’Antoni said. “The thigh will tell him that. He is progressing. It feels a lot better. He’s doing a lot of conditioning, bike riding and stuff. He hasn’t got on the court yet. Once he gets on the court, he’ll be able to hone in on how many days.”

For the Thunder, how they approach slowing down Houston’s offense isn’t complicated. But that doesn’t mean executing it isn’t tricky.

“It’s actually quite simple,” Oklahoma City center Steven 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.”

Adams has a particularly tough assignment, often having to step out to the perimeter while trying to man the lane as well.

The Rockets made it difficult on Adams in the opener. Adams had 17 points and 12 rebounds but was often forced into difficult decisions.

“We’ve got to do a better job at the point of attack, especially guarding the basketball,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan 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.”

The Thunder could get some help defensively soon, though time is running short. Rookie Luguentz Dort, who was one of Oklahoma City’s top perimeter defenders late in the season, is recovering from a right knee sprain. Dort’s status for Thursday’s game is unknown.

Without Dort, Terrance Ferguson started but contributed only six points in 15 minutes.

–Field Level Media

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