Friday, April 26, 2013
Can Rockets win with Westy down?
By Tom Carpenter
For the fourth time during the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook era the Oklahoma City Thunder are 2-0 in a playoff series. They ended up winning the previous three series in no more than five games. That streak may be tested in an extreme manner, though, because Westbrook is slated to undergo knee surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. He suffered the injury during Wednesday's win over the Houston Rockets.
Westbrook has never missed a game during his five-year NBA career. Assuming he's ready by the fall, his NBA-best streak of 394 consecutive regular-season games played will remain intact, but things will get very difficult for the Thunder in Round 1 of the playoffs after losing the 23.2 PPG, 7.4 APG, 5.2 RPG and 1.8 SPG he averaged during the regular season. Obviously, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher won't exactly strike the same fear into the hearts of Rockets fans or their players.
Can the Rockets pull off the upset from down 0-2? Per Elias, since the playoffs expanded in 1984, 132 lower seeds (worse seeds) have fallen behind two games to none in a 1st-round series. Only five have come back to win the series (3.8%). Those teams were the 2005 Washington Wizards (vs Chicago Bulls), 2001 Dallas Mavericks (vs Utah Jazz), 1994 Denver Nuggets (vs Seattle Sonics), 1990 New York Knicks (vs Boston Celtics), 1987 Golden State Warriors (vs Jazz).
Before Westbrook went down, ESPN NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh examined how the Rockets should approach turning the series around, and that method likely hasn't changed despite Westbrook's injury:
Tom HaberstrohWho will be the luckiest losers?
"But the Rockets shouldn't change who they are: a high-risk, high-reward team that rolls the dice with 3-pointers to minimize the talent disadvantage. They've experienced some incredibly bad luck, shooting a woeful 25 percent from downtown (18-for-71), but that should revert to the mean sooner than later (the Rockets shot 40 percent from deep in the regular season). The Thunder certainly will prepare for the Rockets' zone that held OKC to just 14 points on 17 plays down the stretch, according to Synergy Sports tracking, but Kevin McHale shouldn't be afraid to bust it out again. The Rockets are a much better team at home this season (plus-7.2 net rating) so the biggest adjustment for Houston may be to not make an adjustment at all."