The Houston Rockets take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, following their 111-98 win in Game 2.
Playing without the injured Russell Westbrook, seven Rockets players scored in double figures, led by 21 from James Harden and while they struggled shooting the ball, their pesky defensive effort made the difference in the win.
Here are five takeaways from the Rockets' Game 2 win.
The Rockets' defence is no joke
Heading into the post-season, many wondered how Houston's undersized lineup would manage on the defensive end, especially against bigger matchups, but through two games against the Thunder, the Rockets have not only acquitted themselves well defensively, they've been an absolute nightmare for their opponents.
The Rockets' long, athletic lineup caused plenty of havoc for the Thunder's perimeter players, switching everything on defence as they held the Thunder to just 39 points in the second half.
They recorded eight steals in Game 2, led by three each from Harden and Robert Covington.
"If we hold each other accountable and everybody does what they're supposed to, our defence can be the best defence in the NBA," said defensive anchor P.J. Tucker. "Everybody always talks about how small we are...but we've got to make that our strength."
During the regular season, the Rockets gave up 114.8 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the league and through the first two games of the series, they've allowed 108 and 98 points respectively.
The Rockets aren't shy letting it fly from deep
The Rockets continue to hoist 3-pointers at a wild rate, putting up 56 attempts from beyond the arc in Game 2. Although they connected on just 19 of those attempts (33.9%), their work on the defensive end bailed them out.
Their backcourt of Harden and Eric Gordon combined to shoot just 2-of-22 from deep, with Gordon missing all 10 of his attempts.
Over two games, the Rockets have shot a combined 108 three-pointers and don't expect that to change. They're 5-0 in playoff games where they attempt 50+ threes.
Welcome to the new NBA!
Playoff games with 50+ three-point attempts:- StatMuse (@statmuse) August 20, 2020
Rockets - 5
All other teams in history combined - 0 pic.twitter.com/xPWBnmVll5
Rockets use 17-0 run to seal game
After being outplayed for large stretches of the game, the Rockets used a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
James Harden didn't have his usual kind of night offensive, recording just 21 points and nine assists on 5-of-16 shooting and 2-of-11 from the 3-point line, but he hit some big shots down the stretch to helps seal the game.
He had plenty of help from Jeff Green, Danuel house Jr., Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker, who all came up big in the closing stages of the game.
Big shots down the stretch for The Beard! 🔥#OneMission l @reliantenergy pic.twitter.com/w46iQP5LeB- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 20, 2020
House Jr. finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, Gordon and Green added 15 points apiece, while P.J. Tucker had 14, Austin Rivers 11, and Robert Covington 10.
Lu Dort....the Harden stopper?
It was Lu Dort's first playoff game, but you could barely tell.
His composure and tenacity on the defensive end was impressive, especially considering he spent most of his night guarding Harden. His ability to fight through screens and stay in front of Harden and force the ball out of his hands is something you don't see many people successfully pull off for long stretches against perhaps the best one-on-one player in the league.
Great defensive effort from Lu Dort. Watch how he is physical to deny. Fights to not get screened, goes over the first screen and under the second screen. Rarely do you see Harden come off in P&R without a show or switch. pic.twitter.com/3hPOBHXIcn- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) August 20, 2020
The Thunder were +4 with Dort on the floor.
SGA steps up in Game 2
After a quiet outing in Game 1 (9 points, 2-of-8 FG), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander bounced back with a monster performance in Game 2, recording 31 points, six rebounds, and two assists on 9-of-17 shooting and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc in 37 minutes.
He was in attack mode from the jump, scoring nine points in the opening quarter. Encouragingly he made several trips to the free-throw line, looking for contact in the paint, going 10-of-11 at the line. He shot just four free throws in Game 1.
The Thunder were a +7 in SGA's minutes on the court and -20 in his minutes on the bench. They'll need him to keep playing at that level if they're a chance of getting back into the series.
Behind the back dribble, step back, pop 💥. @shaiglalex | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/EAUbt56n3O- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 20, 2020
The Thunder will look to get back into the series in Game 3, when the two teams meet again on Sunday, August 23 at 3:00 a.m. IST.
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