Houston Rockets Round 1 Preview vs Oklahoma City

Houston Rockets Round 1 Preview vs Oklahoma City

That question might be answered in the first round of the postseason when the Oklahoma City Thunder square off against the Houston Rockets.

This is probably the most evenly matched first-round series on either side of the bracket. Harden might be the league's best distributor, but it wouldn't mean almost as much if Houston didn't lead the National Basketball Association with 14.4 made three-pointers per game. It's worked out so well the Rockets finished third in the National Basketball Association in offensive pace at 100, which is also the best among playoff teams. Each have put together historic offensive seasons to carry their teams to unexpected finishes, Harden helping the Rockets rebound from a massively disappointing season previous year and Westbrook single-handedly allowing the Thunder to move past Kevin Durant's departure last summer.

The prominent storyline of this series is Harden vs. Westbrook, and rightly so.

As is so often the case, Patrick Beverley was there for support Sunday night. It's possible for Houston because the Thunder are too reliant on Westbrook.

The workload for Harden changed this season, unlike in previous years. We know what we'll get from the Clips-stellar play from Chris Paul and crisp offensive execution from the starting five.

Houston enters the series as a trendy dark horse to break the hold that the Warriors and Spurs have had on the Western Conference in recent memory. Without Harden, Houston's offense suffers, producing 106.5 points per 100 possessions. He went right to work — making two 3-pointers to power a 10-0 run and push the lead to 110-80 with 4 1/2 minutes left.

The general consensus is that Westbrook has swayed the MVP voters with a stunning display of clutch shots and rallies from large deficits in the last few weeks.

Nikola Jokic put up 29 points, 16 rebounds while Jamal Murray had 27 points and 6 assists for the winners.

"Playing against the best players in the world, at the biggest stage, that's the goal for every player", Durant said.

Beverley refused to take credit for slowing Westbrook down.

"It's an wonderful accomplishment", Nuggets coach Mike Malone said of Westbrook.

This is one of the things that makes talking about sports fun.

Prediction: Rockets in 7 games. Watching the Jazz and their youngsters play under some expectations for the first time in their careers will be revealing one way or another. This was an entertaining matchup in last year's second round, with the Blazers fighting hard, though losing in five games. Roberson is one of the league's best perimeter defenders and if he can impact some of Harden's fluid effortlessness, the series has potential to go down as a classic. You have got to have the power drive to score.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Rockets have a 70 percent chance of moving on to the second round, which will only go higher if Westbrook falters in any way.

Billy Donovan isn't a rookie coach anymore but he's still the new kid on the block. Plus, he contests 6.6 shots per game (3.4 from behind the arc) and leads the league in loose balls recovered (1.6 per game). But I don't care, and neither should you. Threes may or may not fall; the Thunder can only pray they get lucky.

However, as Griffin sees it - while also factoring stats like PER (Player Efficiency Rating, a comprehensive stat that looks at a player's overall production) - that Westbrook could even have the energy to dominate in so many areas and average a triple-double is mind-blowing.

Harden made a pair of free throws to cap the third quarter and leave Houston up 89-74 entering the fourth. The Cavs should win this series fairly easily, but George is going to go off a couple times in the process.



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