NBA Playoffs Round 1: Houston Rockets Blowout Oklahoma City Thunder


NEED TO KNOW: Round 1 of the James Harden-Russell Westbrook matchup was no contest.

The Rockets opened up as the fairly large favorites to get the job done and advance to round two, and on Sunday night, we all saw why.

But when they step on the court Sunday night for Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series between the Thunder and Houston Rockets, friendship takes a backseat.

Beverley's performance was nothing new to Harden, who has had a front row seat to his work for years. "That's never gonna change", Harden said at the Rockets' shootaround on Sunday. He brings it every game. "Tonight he made shots, he rebounded the ball at a high level, he's just Pat tonight".

Game 2 of the seven-game series is Wednesday in Houston. Both of these superstars are going to be fighting hard to prove their case as to why they are the league's most valuable player when game one of their playoff series gets underway April. 16. Soon after, Westbrook hit the bench as there was nothing else he could do.

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Westbrook played just 13 minutes in the second half of what turned into a blowout loss, so his 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and nine turnovers are a bit harder to compare to his sensational regular season. "We just try to show him a lot of bodies, try to make it as tough as possible on him". Victor Oladipo scored only six points on 1-12 shooting from the field. Lou Williams scored the first four points in that span, and Beverley found Clint Capela on an alley-oop dunk.

Playing a day after 22-year-old sister Chyna Thomas was killed in a auto accident in their home state of Washington, Thomas led the top-seeded Celtics with 33 points.

Westbrook and Harden are also two of the leading MVP candidates this season. Harden struggled from 3-point range and still shot 13 for 28. For him, what matters most is proving he can be the cornerstone for Billy Donovan. The Houston Rockets won game one 118 to 87.

Westbrook ended a scoring drought of nearly 3 1/2 minutes for the Thunder with a layup, but Houston used an 8-2 spurt - highlighted by a 3 from Eric Gordon - to push the lead to 81-68 with just more than three minutes remaining in the third.

Harden made two free throws to cap the third quarter and leave Houston up 89-74 entering the fourth.

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The Rockets had the third-best record in the National Basketball Association and are eyeing a deep playoff run in their first season under D'Antoni after being ousted in the first round by Golden State past year. "We have to be ready to go for Wednesday". Atlanta is now 1-4 against the Wizards this season, and no Hawks team has ever overcome a 2-0 series deficit (0 for 24).

The Rockets led 59-54 at halftime.

Westbrook, on the other hand, was a one-man wrecking crew this season, following the departures of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. It didn't happen. He finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Rockets will continue to launch threes left and right. He had 14 points and seven rebounds. And they were switching everything and he was just exploiting what was there. These combined efforts allowed the team to control the paint on the offensive end, putting Oklahoma City on their heels and paving the way for lovely layups and explosive dunks.

If I had to give an edge to one, I would say Oscar because of the better shooting percentage (48 percent to 43 percent), but any way you look at it, both players had legendary seasons.

"We kept preaching that, that we're not going to shoot the ball well all the time so we've got to find other ways to win", Harden said.

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Joining him in this elite company is Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, who carried a Thunder team on his back to the postseason this year.