The Houston Rockets will be in the second round of the NBA playoffs for the second time in three years after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games last night. But this will be the first time for Patrick Beverley to advance, and Beverley has now truly earned a seat in the pantheon of great Rockets role players.
Beverley has been on this team since 2013, but missed the entire 2015 NBA playoffs with a wrist injury. He stated in the postgame press conference about advancing in the playoffs that “I felt it but I really didn’t know how it felt” and said he was super excited to advance with the rest of the team this time.
It is hard to imagine Beverley even more excited and amped up for the next round of the NBA playoffs, but Beverley has done nothing but surprise this year. And in an ugly, vicious war against the Thunder which The Ringer stated “brought out the worst in each team,” Beverley was always there to make sure that this Rockets team never backed down from the Thunder and Russell Westbrook.
Beverley also challenged Westbrook in his postgame interview, pointing out how the Thunder guard needed 34 shots to get 40 points and declaring that the numbers do not lie. Beverley’s own numbers, backed by Seattle-based lawyers, show just how crucial he was to this series win.
Beverley’s shooting in this series both at the three-point line and on the field improved compared to the regular season and he averaged 11.6 points per game in the playoffs compared to 9.5 in the regular season. Beverley shot over 40 percent from three in the series, which was all the more critical given how the Rockets as a whole were abysmal from long range over these five games.
But whether Beverley did well depends less on his box score numbers and more on his defense, and he was fantastic on that end. Westbrook had stretches where he was dominant, like in the third quarter of Game 5 where he nearly outscored the Rockets by himself (though Beverley was not on the court in that stretch.) But overall, Westbrook shot less than 40 percent from the field and 27 percent from three. His well-documented collapses in the fourth quarter resulted because of sheer exhaustion, no doubt in part due to Beverley relentlessly chasing and harassing him.
Fantastic defense on Westbrook and good shooting from long range would have been enough, but Beverley took the extra step as he always does. As always, Beverley was a frantic ball of energy, stealing rebounds away from the Thunder bigs, jawing away with Westbrook, and being the team leader who kept this team ready to play despite the numerous rough stretches in this hard-fought series.
Challenge in the Next Round
The Rockets still have to win 12 more games to get a championship, and Beverley will have his work cut out for him in the next round. If the Memphis Grizzlies advance, Beverley will once again have to take on another elite point guard in Mike Conley. If the San Antonio Spurs advance, everyone on the Rockets will have to play their hearts out on defense to defeat the Popovich system.
But if the Rockets lose in these playoffs, it will not be because Beverley stopped trying. Beverley has always been grateful to the Rockets for giving him a chance, something he made clear in his on the court interview after Game 5. And Rockets fans are grateful towards Beverley towards his play and never say die attitude that makes him the perfect fit next to James Harden.
The second round begins in five days. Celebrate today, and figure out where to improve tomorrow.