The big news leading into Game 2 of the series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets was the insertion of point guard Patrick Beverley into the starting lineup in place of forward Greg Smith. The move by coach Kevin McHale made it apparent the Rockets were only going to speed up their tempo and spread the floor to an even greater degree.
After the Thunder's dominating 120-91 victory in Game 1, the move seemingly is working through the first half with regards to the three keys heading into Wednesday night's game. Houston trails just 57-55.
1. Will James Harden find some help?
Chandler Parsons scored only nine points in Game 1, but with the matchup issue stemming from the change to the starting lineup, he quickly equaled that mark just five minutes into the game. The Rockets had the small forward attack Serge Ibaka, and often ran him off screens to force Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins to switch onto him. Parsons has 12 points at the half.
Beverley also made his imprint on the game, scoring nine points and dropping five dimes in the first half. He also got under the skin of Russell Westbrook after a steal attempt that tripped up the Thunder guard as he was about to call a timeout:
And somehow, Beverley had four second-chance points in the first half for Houston.
2. Can Houston slow down OKC's big men?
Sort of. After Ibaka went for 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in Game 1, Collison and Ibaka have been active on the offensive glass in the first half. Ibaka also has three blocks. But in general, the lineup swap on Houston's end has also neutralized the Oklahoma City big men from packing the paint. They were even forced to go to a four-guard lineup with Nick Collison acting as the center at one point.
3. Will the Rockets simply keep launching threes?
The lineup change seemingly helped the Rockets spread the floor to an even greater extent, opening up driving lanes for the four ball-handlers on the court. Only 15 of Houston's 49 field goal attempts have been from beyond the arc, and the Rockets have also done a decent job of getting to the foul stripe.
McHale's squad has 32 points in the paint through the first half while keeping limiting the Thunder to being a jump shooting team. Oklahoma City has only 14 points in the paint, though they are shooting 50 percent from the floor.