Rockets vs. Thunder Game 2 preview, NBA Playoffs 2013: Game time, TV schedule and more

Christian Petersen

Can the Rockets rebound from a disappointing opening game performance to upend OKC in Game 2?

After losing Game 1 of their first round series in lopsided fashion, Houston Rockets star James Harden said the outcome could end up benefiting the team going forward.

We'll find out just how true that statement is Wednesday as the Rockets tip off against the Thunder for Game 2 of their opening series in the 2013 NBA playoffs.

Coming off a 120-91 beatdown in Game 1, the Rockets would seem to be in serious trouble against Harden's former team, but don't expect Houston to simply bow out yet. As good as OKC is, we'll see how the Rockets react after stumbling so badly in the opening game.

How can the Rockets pull off an upset on the road Wednesday? Here are three questions to break down the contest.

1. Will James Harden find some help?

It felt like a running theme throughout the analysis of Game 1. "Beyond James Harden, those Rockets, they looked like deer in headlights!" said about a dozen television talking heads. But that sort of ignores how difficult it is to play in Oklahoma City, let alone in a playoff atmosphere.

The Thunder weren't like deer in headlights. They were like old people at a rock concert, out of place and overwhelmed by the intensity.

Subtract Harden's effort from Game 1, and the remaining Rockets scored a total of 71 points on 27 of 72 shooting (38 percent). The team's star player wasn't much more efficient, but he was at least aggressive, something that couldn't be said for most of the team's other scorers.

Over a seven-game series, there's a decent possibility that Harden will go absolutely bonkers at least once, enough to lead Houston to victory. However, he'll need help to make this an actual series.

2. Can Houston slow down OKC's big men?

I would ask whether the Rockets are capable of stopping Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, but we know the answer to the question. Instead, it may be imperative for Houston to limit the damage done by the likes of Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, two players that have given the team fits this season.

During three regular season games against Houston, Ibaka averaged 16 points on 65 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds and four blocks per game. Collison also had some of his best games against the Rockets, averaging eight points and 7.3 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game.

In Game 1, the story was similar. Ibaka was everywhere, finishing with 17 points (7 of 11 shooting), seven rebounds and three blocks, while Collison pitched in eight points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench without missing a single shot.

The Rockets won't be able to stop Durant or Westbrook, but if they're also getting beaten up by Ibaka and Collison, well, that's a bigger problem.

3. Will the Rockets simply keep launching threes?

At a certain point in Game 1, it seemed like the Rockets just entirely committed to launching three-pointers at every opportunity. While that's admittedly the central focus of the team's offensive game plan in most games, it's easy to wonder if a more balanced attack could benefit the team.

As the Rockets learned in the opening game, if they want to turn this into a fast-paced sprint of the series, the Thunder will simply run them out of the building. That seemed to leave Houston resigned to passively waiting for three-point attempts, which simply weren't falling.

Part of the let's-barrage-threes strategy is that, eventually, the team will get hot and knock down 15 in a game. When that happens, the Rockets are extremely difficult to beat. However, that didn't happen in Game 1, and it will be interesting to see if Houston sticks to its guns and keeps attacking from beyond the arc.

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