Thunder Lacked Offensive Flow as Rockets Take Game 5

Paris Lawson

Game 5 Recap: Thunder 80, Rockets 114

The Thunder struggled to maintain its offensive rhythm throughout Game 5. After rallying back from an early 13-point deficit, a pivotal third quarter and a series of turnovers would be enough to give Houston the series lead going into Game 6.

Game Flow

One of the main concerns for Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan coming into Saturday’s game was his team’s ability to settle into the same rhythm with which it was playing before the three-day break. Getting back to the momentum and cadence that allowed the Thunder to level the series after trailing 0-2 would be the chief concern for Coach Donovan going into Game 5 rather than effort or energy.

In the first quarter, offensive rhythm was hard to come by for both the Rockets and the Thunder. OKC generated good looks on the offensive end, but were unable to convert which lead to a 1-12 showing from the 3-point line. On the other side of the ball, the Rocket’s, though shooting better, were not at their usual clip either. After the first quarter, the Rockets were a mere 3-11 from deep and 9-23 from the field. One player who had no trouble catching an early rhythm was James Harden. The league’s scoring champion was perfect from the field in the first quarter going 4-4 and 2-2 from the free throw line. By the end of the night, he would lead all scorers with 31 points.

However, after shooting a disappointing 19-percent from the field in the first frame and only putting up 14 points, the tides turned drastically in the second. The catalyst for OKC’s surge of offense was Dennis Schröder who erupted for 18 second-quarter points. His lightning quick first step and his ability to shoot from deep helped the Thunder close the looming 13-point margin to as much as a five-point lead for the Thunder midway through the frame. His energy and tempo rubbed off on his teammates and generated confidence on the offensive end.

Going into the half, the Thunder trailed by a manageable three points with 24 points awaiting on the other side of the break.

“The first half I didn't think either team really got into a real good flow shooting the basketball but I really thought the intention of way we were trying to play and what we're trying to do what was correct,” said Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan. “It wasn't a great shooting night for us tonight but I think that it's a 48-minute game and we had moments in time where we played really, really great basketball.”

Decisive Moments

The window of hope for the Thunder to retake the lead in the second half was squandered by Houston who went on a 19-2 run in the opening five minutes of the frame. The Thunder turned the ball over five times in that time frame which translated to 10 easy points for Houston on the other end. The swift shift in momentum was solidified in the Rockets’ direction midway through the quarter when Schröder and Rockets’ forward P.J. Tucker were both ejected from the game after colliding in an illegal Houston ball screen that resulted in Tucker headbutting Schröder after the play. The once promising 3-point margin at the half ballooned to 25 as the Rockets outscored the Thunder 37 to 18 in the third frame.

The Thunder was unable to reclaim its momentum and the Rockets’ lead steadily grew for the remainder of the game until it reached 34 points at the buzzer.

“This was a game that was probably more like Games 1 or 2 for us,” said Donovan, referencing the Thunder’s first two losses of the series. “We have got to play with really good spacing. We’ve got to play downhill and we’ve got to play fast and I thought at times we got stagnant. I thought at times our spacing wasn't great, and I thought for a good portion of the game they were the more aggressive team.”

Play of the Game

There were a series of strong, physical plays by Steven Adams throughout the game who dominated in the paint to wrangle in a game-high 14 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive glass. As the lone 7-footer on the floor, the Thunder’s starting center showcased his strength at the very outset of the game with four offensive rebounds (five total) in the first five minutes after the opening tip.

Stat of the Night


For the night, the Thunder turned the ball over 17 times which resulted in 20 points for the Rockets on the other end. Eight of those miscues occurred the 12-minute stretch of the third quarter where the Thunder struggled to generate or maintain its offensive rhythm. Ultimately, the stall on offense would be the Thunder’s largest hurdle to overcome in Saturday’s Game 5.

“The main thing tonight was a couple of times it was too many turnovers,” said Adams. “Those are the ones that really sting.” “The turnovers in the third quarter and the inability to really get anything going in that third quarter certainly we dug ourselves a hole and made it really difficult,” said Donovan.

Quotes of the Night

Coach Donovan

“We know what we have to do and we've got to respond. This group has always done that." –Coach Donovan

“We’ll go back to the drawing board, see what we did well and what we didn’t do well.
We gotta let our defense create our offense and we’ll be okay.” –Chris Paul

Looking Ahead

After a day of practice on Sunday, the Thunder will have a chance to bounce back and tie the series back up on Monday at 8 p.m. CT. Game 6 will air on FOX Sports Oklahoma and 98.1 FM WWLS The Sports Animal.



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