Houston Rockets eliminate Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1

James Harden

The Oklahoma City Thunder came into game five with win-or-go-home on their minds. They were not able to escape Houston as they lost to the Rockets 105-99. James Harden led the Rockets with 37 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. However, he had a pedestrian shooting night going 8-of-25 from the field and 2-of-13 from deep. The Rockets guard did what he does best and get to the foul line when his shots aren’t falling. Harden attempted 17 free throws and made 16 of them. Houston also received a huge lift off the bench from Lou Williams who scored 22 points. Williams was picked up by the Rockets from the Lakers at the trade deadline and has been crucial for them so far in the playoffs.

Hoston will advance to the next round where they will face the winner of the San Antonio Spurs-Memphis Grizzlies matchup.

On the other bench, Russell Westbrook came up one assist away from another triple-double. The Thunder guard finished the game with 47 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. He wound up averaging a triple-double for the series but his teammates’ lack of production really gave the Thunder no chance. In tonight’s game, no other player scored more than 11 points and for the series, the team was outscored by 58 when Westbrook sat on the bench. With his team struggling, Westbrook was forced to put in max effort throughout each game. This caused Westbrook to show signs of fatigue late in the games in this series. He really struggled shooting in the fourth quarters with a 29 field goal percentage which caused the Thunder to be outscored by 50 in the combined fourth quarters this series. They once again disappeared in the fourth quarter in game five as they lost 33-22 to ultimately lose the elimination game.

With his team struggling, Westbrook was forced to put in max effort throughout each game. This caused Westbrook to show signs of fatigue late in the games in this series. He really struggled shooting in the fourth quarters with a 29 field goal percentage which caused the Thunder to be outscored by 50 in the combined fourth quarters this series. They once again disappeared in the fourth quarter in game five as they lost 33-22 to ultimately lose the elimination game.

Victor Oladipo really disappointed his new team in his first playoff series of his career. The Thunder traded for Oladipo last offseason for their longtime power forward, Serge Ibaka. He is a solid defender and playmaker at the rim, but his shooting never came together this season or playoff. In Tuesday’s game five, Oladipo shot 4-of-17 from the field to finish with ten points. For now, it looks as if the acquisition of Oladipo won’t come to fruition for Oklahoma City.

This is series showed what life is going to be like for the Thunder since Kevin Durant departed last summer. They still have one of the premier players in the league but no other player can score consistently around. This formula will get the Thunder to the playoffs, but they will never go very far without another star player. The team will need to evaluate how they can improve their team around Westbrook to become championship contenders again. Until then, expect the team to only care about Westbrook’s crazy stats rather than wins in the playoffs.

Memphis Grizzlies 103 – San Antonio Spurs 116

It’s always tough to win in San Antonio, especially late in a series. Memphis came out with plenty of energy and played pretty well, but couldn’t fend off the high-scoring Spurs. Kawhi Leonard put together another big night as he’s done all series. He finished the night with 28 points and six assists while playing his usual lockdown defense. The team found a spark off the bench in Patty Mills who finished with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting in just 21 minutes. When Mills is able to score for the Spurs, the rest of the team usually gets going as he shows great effort and emotion when he plays well. He hit huge shot after huge shot down the stretch to help his team pull away.

Only Mike Conley was able to score more than 20 points for the Grizzlies as they struggled to score as a team. Conley finished with 26 points and six assists to help make this game somewhat close. Memphis had seen a rejuvenated Zach Randolph earlier in the series, but he struggled to put together a good scoring output in this affair. Only playing 26 minutes, Randolph looked fatigued while only scoring nine points. If Memphis is to force a game seven, they will need more production out of the supporting cast in their next game. They’ve won every game at home this series, so game six will be a much-needed homecoming to the grindhouse for the Grizzlies.

Utah Jazz 96 – Los Angeles Clippers 92

The Clippers really missed Blake Griffin tonight. He is out for the series after hurting his toe in game four and the Jazz took advantage of it. The big men for the Clippers combined to score just 17 points in game five including Maurice Speights, who replaced Griffin in the starting lineup, scoring just one point. Chris Paul was forced to step up and take over which he did a great job doing. Down the stretch, he made a couple big shots to keep the Clippers alive. However, the mountain was too tall to climb as the Clippers couldn’t make key stops late in the game. Paul was able to find his shot as he recorded 28 points and nine assists. Unfortunately for Paul, his team is now one loss away from another underachieving postseason in Los Angeles.

Utah was able to get their star players going in a tough road game. Gordon Hayward scored 27 points with eight boards to lead the Jazz to a huge win. Hayward put up huge stats, but Joe Johnson turned into the closer that he has been all series long. With 20 seconds left and the Jazz up three, Johnson hit a tough step-back mid-range jumper to ice the game. Iso-Joe, as they call him, has been a thorn in the Clippers side all series including a game-winning shot to take game one on the road.

Utah now takes a 3-2 series lead back home. They will see a desperate Clippers team who will be without Blake Griffin. With a win, the Jazz will advance past the first round for the first time since 2010.

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