Tuesday, 25 April, 2017

Why Patrick Beverley's Game 1 performance was best of his career

LeBron James is still the NBA's Best Heat win, but Pacers and Bulls make playoffs over Miami
Kristopher Love | 20 April, 2017, 07:37

While the series won't be won or lost in Game 2, the vibe around the matchup would drastically shift if the Thunder was able to steal a win on Wednesday night. The final statline was gaudy-51 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and a 55.3 usage rate-but the Rockets pulled away in the last 12 minutes, and they now own a comfortable 2-0 lead as the series shifts north. Harden added nine assists and seven boards.

Russell Westbrook is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds, which is the average size for an National Basketball Association point guard.

The Rockets opened up as the fairly large favorites to get the job done and advance to round two, and on Sunday night, we all saw why. We just take what they give us. Horford has now scored in double figures in each of his last six postseason games. "We didn't shoot the ball well, but we got into the paint and we finished (at the rim)". After a strong 15 points in the first half, the giveaways piled up as the All-Star searched for help, ultimately ending the night with 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and nine turnovers. The Rockets had 31 second-chance points, while the Thunder had just four. Gordon scored 11 fourth-quarter points to ignite Houston's rally.

"He just has a way of getting you fired up", Watt said.

"I thought you guys competed well".

It's widely known that Harden and Westbrook are long-time friends, and how close they were was on full display during the 2017 NBA All-Star game.

The game was tied before Houston scored 10 straight points with 3-pointers from Harden, Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon to make it 114-104 with 1:22 remaining.

All in all, it is hard to compare two players who played 50 years apart.

One of the most obvious ways to create this downhill momentum has been pushing the ball in transition - the Thunder had the fifth-shortest average possession length this season (per Inpredictable) and used the fourth-highest percentage of their offensive possessions in transition (per the NBA's play type statistics). What's more, the first three times these teams met in the regular season, the games were decided by a combined seven points. Harden took over from there, scoring 13 points in the period as the Rockets hit four treys and 10 of 10 free throws. Rusell Westbrook is fun to watch, but he is not the MVP ... he's like that surfer who looks unbelievable at first, but when you wait for him to emerge from that final, big curl all you see are a flying surfboard and a pair of trunks.

Praised before the series for his hard-nosed defending, Beverley's red-hot shooting effort kept the Rockets afloat after an uncharacteristic 3-for-16 mark from three-point range in the first half.

The two teams are back at it again in this first-round series, and while Houston and Beverley earned the clear win in Game 1, there's at least three more times going head to head before we're clear of these two. Taj Gibson (eight points) is going to have to bully the Rockets more, since Kanter apparently is in exile for defensive deficiencies.