WESTBROOK WILL MISS GAME 5

Let's discuss how Russell Westbrook could impact the Thunder series

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

After the Rockets lost two tough games back-to-back, they were exposed late in 3rd and 4th quarters as well. As the Rockets were triumphant in game 1 and 2, they have been outscored 119-98 in the second half. The Rockets need Russell Westbrook so they can close games out. The Oklahoma City Thunder now have life.

The Rockets are in trouble because of the shorter bench. Ben McLemore's defense has been frantic inside of defensive schemes and man-to-man coverage. That has caused his minutes to decrease for Mike D'Antoni. Austin Rivers has not scored since game 3, and that was only four points. The Rockets only rely on their 3-point shooting instead of points inside the paint. Luckily for the Rockets, Westbrook gets most of points inside the paint. Westbrook averages 60.8 percent inside the restricted area and 37.2 percent in the paint (Non-RA).

The Rockets do miss Westbrook's presence to create and apply consent pressure going to the basket. This allows the Rockets' shooters to get open for shooting attempts. If Westbrook does comeback soon, this can relieve the pressure on James Harden offensively, who has been guarded by Lu Dort, rookie from Arizona State. Harden has struggled possession wise against Dort by only shooting 23.5 percent against him.

Defense has been a problem for the Rockets as well, despite the Rockets being 4th in the Western Conference in team general defense. Dennis Schroeder has been averaging 30 points per game off the bench for the Thunder in the last two games. Chris Paul has awakened by averaging 26 points per game in the last two games as well. Those two have been the consistent force for the Thunder getting back in this series. Bringing Westbrook back will help the Rockets and allow Harden to not get in foul trouble.

"We needed better individual defensive efforts. They really had it going and they tried to spread us out and go 1-on-1. We scored enough and they continued to keep scoring," Eric Gordon on the Rockets' defense after their game 4 loss on Monday. "That's what it's going to come down to. Our defense needs to be better than today."

When Paul and Westbrook matchup on defense, Westbrook only allows Paul to shoot 25 percent against him. That could be a huge difference in this series. Westbrook was upgraded to questionable for game 5 on Wednesday.

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Davis Mills has to work to do. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Texans took to the field for their second day of workouts on the field. Here are 11 observations from a shaky offensive day.

1. Mills had a shakier day than his first. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. There were a lot of teachable moments for him in this practice. General manager Nick Caserio said consistency is the biggest thing for him in evaluating a player. Part of the consistency is how often do you make the same mistakes, according to Caserio. Mills has work to do before Monday’s practice.

2. Even with the shaky day, there is still excitement to Mills. Seeing how he bounces back will be big, and the challenge won't be easy as the team will have a padded practice on Monday. Traditionally, defenses are ahead of the offense early in training camp.

3. Nico Collins and Davis Mills weren’t on the same page on Saturday. The two had a few miscommunications that led to some incomplete passes. Mills also came up just a little long on a deep pass to Collins. Later the two hooked up for a nice completion as Collins beat rookie Derek Stingley Jr. but it was not the best day for the two second-year players.

4. There weren’t a lot of receivers getting open today. Brandin Cooks is about the only player who constantly gets open. It led to Davis Mills holding the ball a few times and ultimately deciding to check the ball down. The secondary had a solid day.

5. Lovie Smith said after practice they don’t scheme up a lot of short passes and this team will need to move the ball through the air. He did lament that sometimes you have to take a quick and short gain as an offense. Smith also joked when you don’t like the passing game you can give credit to the coverage.

6. Speaking of the secondary, it featured a lot of Derek Stingley Jr. on Saturday. The first passing drill with the offense against defense saw Stingley Jr. square off with Brandin Cooks. It was again a win for Cooks, but the rookie had some nice moments on the field. Chris Conley also had a nice win against Stingley Jr. in coverage. The Texans have to get their first-round pick acclimated to how they will use him. I will say though that Stingley Jr. makes things look fluid and easy as he moves about the defense.

7. Safety Terrence Brooks has put together a nice couple of days to start training camp. He has had at least one pass break-up in each of the first two days and he has a lot of energy in the secondary. Rookie Jalen Pitre dashed into the backfield sniffing out a toss play showcasing his anticipation.

8. Garret Wallow was a player showing up to camp with high expectations, and he’d earned them. The late-round pick last year had done a great job getting his body in shape, and it feels like he is all over the field. Wallow had a pass break-up Saturday and he is near the top of my list for when the pads come on Monday.

9. Speaking of players who will excite when the pads come on, Kenyon Green is near the top of my list too. The “other” first-round pick for the Texans hasn’t played as much as you would maybe like so far, but he absolutely STONED a defender on a running play. There is work to do, but Green has flashes and in pads, he should flash more.

10. Jerry Hughes is one of the oldest players on the field. You wouldn’t know it though. The veteran has a ton of energy, and he’s very vocal. He easily dismissed Laremy Tunsil for what would have been a sack. Hughes is going to be a necessary contributor to this team in 2022.

11. Jonathan Greenard, Justin Britt, and Kamu Grugier-Hill all practiced after missing time on Friday. Phillip Dorsett has yet to really get involved and Lovie Smith said Dorsett is a little dinged up. The team will practice in pads on Monday for the first time. Jalen Pitre, Kenyon Green, Garret Wallow, Christian Harris, and Roy Lopez are the players I have near the top of my list to keep an eye on as the pads come on.

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