Small ball worked until destiny intervened
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin McHale decided to change strategies for Game Two. There were plenty of encouraging signs that his small ball worked.
Instead of starting the 6-10 Greg Smith, McHale opted for 6-1 Patrick Beverley as part of a starting lineup that also included Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik. In fact, McHale relied mainly on lineups throughout the game with only one big man on the floor, with the other four spaced out at different points around the perimeter, causing the Thunder defense to have to come out, therefore creating more room for driving lanes and a variety of offensive plays.
Of course, with a move like this, one would think that the Rockets would suffer defensively with size mismatches and, at the very least, lose the battle of the boards. However, the Thunder shot 10 percent worse as compared to Game One. Also, the Rockets severely out-rebounded the Thunder 57-40 in Game Two, including an 18-10 edge on the offensive glass.
"Defensively, (Kevin) Durant got off to a hot start, but if you look at the numbers, he was 10-for 25," Chandler Parsons said. "(Russell) Westbrook was 10-for-26."
"There was more room in the paint tonight," McHale said. "When we put Greg Smith and Omer in there at the same time, it got real jammy for us and when it gets jammed up for us, we struggle a little bit."
A big part of this was Beverley. Despite his smaller stature, the usual backup point guard led all players with five offensive rebounds and had 12 rebounds to go along with his 16 points and six assists.
"(The coaches) told me, when I get in the game, just to play my game and I tried to do that," Beverley said. "It started off with defense and I was able to hit some shots."
"We didn't know what to expect with that small lineup," Harden said. "We went really small. Our emphasis was to rebound the basketball: Rebound and push it. We did a great job. Patrick had 12 rebounds, had double-digit rebounds, so that was our mindset, which is to go out there, rebound, push it, be in attack mode, and be aggressive."
Obviously, it wasn't just Beverley, the whole system was working well.
"We spread the ball out and we attacked with four wing players who can all create plays," Jeremy Lin said. "It caused them some problems. They'll have a chance to adjust, but I thought we did a good job the whole game of moving the ball and playing with each other, playing for each other."
Unfortunately, the only thing missing was a win, but the change in style leaves plenty of intrigue as far as how the Thunder will adjust for the rest of the series and if the Rockets' small ball will continue its Game Two success.
"Our match-ups were much better," Parsons said. "Spacing on offense was much better and we pretty much did whatever we wanted to on offense, but just stuff didn't go our way."