The Houston Rockets split the games in Oklahoma City, taking Game 4 in what was a hard-fought battle in which James Harden struggled. Despite Harden’s struggles, the Rockets received tremendous production from their role players such as Nene, who dropped 28 points on a perfect 12-of-12 shooting and 10 rebounds. Now the Rockets are on the verge of closing out the series at home with a 3-1 commanding lead.

The supporting cast

The supporting cast should be the difference once again. In Game 4, Harden was slumping, putting up just six points by halftime and 16 for the game, but his team still won. That’s because the Rockets are stacked with many offensive weapons, while the Oklahoma City Thunder have limited talent surrounding Russell Westbrook.

If the Thunder want to keep their season alive, Westbrook needs more help, but then again that has been the theme of the Thunder’s season all year long. He simply doesn’t have a strong supporting cast. He’s been carrying the team all by himself.

Free-throw shooting

Free-throw shooting was a major determining factor in Game 4. While the Rockets shot 84.8 percent from the stripe, the Thunder were a brutal 18-of-32 for 56.3 percent. The Rockets resorted to hack-a-Roberson, and he went 2-for-12 from the line. The strategy worked beautifully for Mike D’Antoni, and he would probably use it again if the outcome is in doubt during Game 5.

Obviously, the two MVP candidates, Westbrook and Harden, are excellent free-throw shooters, but once again it comes down to their supporting cast.

Harden’s supporting cast was 22-of-26, while Westbrook’s supporting cast was 6-of-19.

Stop Houston’s three-point shooting

Three-point shooting is always going to be Houston’s calling card. Under D’Antoni’s system, they are continuously going to chuck up threes especially since the team is filled with many terrific perimeter shooters.

The Thunder must be aware and run out at these shooters to force them to put the ball on the floor and make a play, especially on guys like Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Patrick Beverley.

The Rockets were a plus-12 from three-point distance in Game 4, which made a difference in such a close contest.

It’s easier said than done, but the Thunder must trust their interior defense. Steven Adams and Taj Gibson are both physical forces down low and will challenge players down there, so it’s better to give the lane than to allow wide open threes to this lethal Houston team.

Game 5 should be another entertaining battle, but the Rockets will most likely go for the knockout blow. Being at home with all the momentum on their side, they should come out with a ton of energy to take the Thunder out early in the game. The game is scheduled to tipoff at 8 pm Eastern Time on TNT.

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