• Joseph Thiel

Rockets Bench Holds Off the Thunder

Even on a night where James Harden had one of his worst shooting performances of the year, the Houston Rockets were still able to be hang on against the Oklahoma City Thunder by a final score of 113-109. Led by Nene Hilario’s 28 points off the bench, the Rockets proved that they can win without the heroics of James Harden on a nightly basis. Russell Westbrook obtained his third straight playoff triple-double by halftime, but the Thunder continued to struggle without him on the court. After the game, Westbrook refused to answer any questions regarding the teams’ play without him on the court. Fortunately for the Rockets, they haven’t had any difficulty running the offense without James Harden on the court. Houston has been able to achieve a steady balance of scoring despite playing just eight guys last game.

The first player who deserves recognition for the Rockets’ success is the former 6th Man of the Year Lou Williams. Williams scored 18 points off the bench providing a spark whenever Harden comes off the floor. Williams would be a starter on most teams in the league, but has found a nice niche coming off the bench. With his ability to knock down a shot anywhere on the court, as well as the ability to play the point guard position when needed. Williams has shown how important he is to Houston’s success going forward.

Another guard who has come up big for the Rockets as of late is Eric Gordon. The current Three-Point Contest Champion came up big in Sunday’s win scoring 18 points off the bench including 4-7 from beyond the arc. Gordon spent his first eight seasons in the league playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans in which he was predominantly known for his scoring. That scoring has carried over to his time in Houston. Despite starting just 15 games in the regular season, Gordon averaged over 16 PPG off the bench and has been a luxury for the Rockets all season long. If he can continue his successful shooting, the Rockets may be able to go further than most people had expected.

Moving forward, it looks as if the Rockets are in full control of this series. They are up 3-1 as the series heads to Houston for Game 5. When three men off the bench outscore all five starters of the Rockets and they still win, you know they are one of the more well-rounded teams in the league. They have shown the Thunder it takes more than one superstar to win, despite video game like numbers. If the Thunder look to have any chance of making this a series, they need to take a hard look at what Eric Gordon and Lou Williams have been able to do off the bench. Someone on the Thunder needs to step up other than Westbrook to give the team any type of chance moving forward.

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