Rockets using Thunder as a model
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
OKLAHOMA CITY — The bad news for the Western Conference’s eighth-seeded Houston Rockets, making their first NBA playoff appearance since the 2008-09 season, is they have run head-on into the grown-up version of the team that was in their shoes three seasons ago.
The good news for the Rockets is that if there were a template for how to continue to build their franchise, they can find it today at Chesapeake Energy Arena, site of Game 2 of their first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Like a child whose growth is measured with pencil marks on the wall, top-seeded Oklahoma City has incrementally evolved into a championship favorite, and it all began in the first round of the 2010 Western playoffs.
“That was a great moment for our team,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Long on youth and short on experience, the then-No. 8 seed Thunder had little idea what to expect when they faced the eventual NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, after winning 23 games the season before. Oklahoma City won the third and fourth games at home before losing the best-of-seven series in six games, sending a message they likely would be a force for years to come.
“You can talk about it, you can read it, you can watch it, but you have to feel it,” Brooks said of playoff basketball. “And we really felt it that first year, and we still are. Not too many teams can be put together in one year and win. You have to go through it. All the great teams have taken many years to get over the hump. We definitely had to go through those pains early on.”
Like that Thunder team, the Rockets, who won 45 games during the regular season, are one of the youngest teams ever to reach the playoffs. Houston is the youngest team in the league this season, with its top three scorers — James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin — 24 or younger.
The problem for the high-scoring Rockets is deeper than finding ways to contend with Kevin Durant’s offensive efficiency (and sudden desire to take … [For more on Houston Rockets use OKC as a model for their franchise, click here.]