- Houston guard Jeremy Lin (bruised chest) will miss his first game of the season Monday, when the Rockets attempt to avoid elimination in Game 4 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series with the Thunder. Coach Kevin McHale said wing Francisco Garcia will replace Lin in the starting lineup, although rookie Patrick Beverley and Aaron Brooks will share most of the point-guard duties. “We’re going to play a little differently, but … that’s not an unusual thing for us,” McHale said. “We’ll mix and match our lineups and try to be as good as we can be.”
- Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant played all but 44 seconds in Game 3, as the Thunder narrowly survived a furious second-half rally by Houston in their first game without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Coach Scott Brooks said although Oklahoma City must rely on receiving heavier contributions from Durant in Westbrook’s absence, it cannot expect the sixth-year forward to log such a large amount of playing time throughout the remainder of its postseason run. “I’ll probably rest him a few minutes in the first half,” Brooks said. “It just depends what the game brings. We’ve got a few guys who we can put [in for Durant]. … I like to give him two or three minutes each half. … With Kevin, he wants as many minutes that I give him.”
- Brooks and Durant have been upfront about the Thunder’s desire to complete the sweep, but not just because it would advance their club to the second round. A victory Monday would have the added incentive of providing Oklahoma City with the maximum amount of practice time possible to adjust to life without Westbrook before its postseason journey continues. “It’s definitely going to continue to develop [as we have more practices],” Brooks said. “We just have to keep evolving. … We’re definitely going to be a little different team, but our guys want to continue to push the team forward.”
- Reserve big man Greg Smith will be available after sitting out Game 3 with stomach distress, although a spot in the Rockets’ rotation is no guarantee. Houston, however, could have used Smith’s brawn on the glass in Saturday’s defeat. Led by led by Serge Ibaka’s seven-board effort, the Thunder thrashed the undersized Rockets on the offensive glass, 13-5.
– Matt Miller