The Rockets pulled ahead of the Thunder late in Sunday’s Game 4 and kept them at just enough of a distance throughout the end of the game on their way to a 113-109 win. Among the strategies that the Rockets employed down the stretch was hacking Andre Roberson, who is one of the Thunder’s worst free throw shooters, but also their best perimeter defender.
This left Thunder coach Billy Donovan with a difficult decision. He either had to leave Roberson in, hoping he’d make enough free throws to punish the Rockets’ strategy, or take out his best defender and risk letting James Harden get loose on the other end. Donovan chose the former, and unfortunately for the Thunder, Roberson couldn’t find any rhythm at the line, going 2-for-12 from the stripe.
Roberson’s free throw shooting was bad, but the Rockets bench added insult to injury by mocking him after each miss. You could see the likes of Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and Bobby Brown laughing at each miss.
On Monday, Russell Westbrook — who has been defensive in protecting his teammates this series, including in last night’s press conference when he took exception to a question directed at Steven Adams — was asked about the Rockets’ bench antics.
Westbrook explained that he didn’t see it happen, but was pretty confident that the only people laughing were guys not playing.
Westbrook is, of course, correct in pointing out that Brown, Harrell, and Dekker all are not playing. Dekker has a fractured hand, while Brown and Harrell have been healthy scratches for everything but four minutes of garbage time in the Game 1 blowout of OKC. We’ll see if this plays out at all in Game 5 if Roberson has more struggles at the foul line and the Rockets bench reacts again, or if this turns out to be just a one time thing.