Sports

Thunder Extra: Thunder-Rockets storylines

Thunder Extra: Thunder-Rockets storylines

As I said before, he took a team that people didn't think was going very far, although I don't - some other teams have gotten more wins than they have, but, as far as being electrifying and drawing fans to the arena to see them play, he is the MVP of the league.

Even though Kevin Durant completely disrupted the balance of the league with his decision to jump on the gravy train in Golden State, both Russell Westbrook and James Harden did their best to make the rest of the National Basketball Association worth watching this past season. "It's great for business".

While Russell Westbrook and James Harden appear to be the front-runners for the honor, we also saw tremendous campaigns from LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, who most likely will finish in the top five in voting. Rockets F Ryan Anderson finished 6 of 15 on 3-pointers, bumped his season total to 204 and joined teammates James Harden (262) and Eric Gordon (246) with at least 200 3-pointers this season.

Westbrook recorded 42 triple-doubles, which is 41 more than the Pelicans had this season. Alternatively, they may go over screens to make Westbrook launch more contested threes and leave the paint open for cutters and the two big men, which the Rockets are perhaps less inclined to do given their lack of interior defense at the power forward spot. Is it Harden? Is it Westbrook?

"I don't really care about the talks", he said. "Not saying he wouldn't want to do it or give everything he has if he had to do it, but I think being mindful of how many consecutive minutes he's played is important".

When prodded about what makes Westbrook so good, Harden provided some praise for the fellow point guard.

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With Serge Ibaka on an expiring contract, the Thunder made a play to bring in Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and also secured the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis.

You get the play the tough, best competition.

That said, the Rockets will have the utmost confidence that feisty lockdown defender Patrick Beverley will be able to limit the Westbrook damage, and may even find a way to get under his skin as has become his trademark. "It's a great experience".

It's certainly an option that, if combined with making the Thunder look slow with two bigs being exploited on the perimeter, could potentially make that two bigs lineup unplayable for stretches.

Sitting on the other bench and welcoming the challenge is the league's fastest guard in Westbrook.

I felt very happy for Russell, because it was a tremendous treat, historic in nature, because - you know, it's just a amusing thing that, when I did these things in the '60s, no one even knew anything - knew what a triple-double was. "It will be fun". But any way you slice it, Harden - who just weeks ago seemed to be pulling away - is no shoe-in here.

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"Yes, I do see his minutes going up in the playoffs", Donovan said. I just was very happy to have this guy on our team.

Beyond the stats that underscored their success against Oklahoma City, the Houston Rockets showcased that for all the dynamism Thunder guard Russell Westbrook possesses, his individual brilliance isn't always a corollary for victories. Or Harden's leading the league in assists and win shares and ranking second in scoring.

Though many factors are considered by MVP voters, Harden recently stated that wins should be the deciding factor. "What they do well, where they're ranked in the league in offensive rebounding, which means you've got to rebound".

Oklahoma City will remain in Houston for two days of practice before Game 2 on Wednesday night at the Toyota Center. He didn't play 40 minutes in any regulation game all season, either. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook became the first player in 55 years and only the second in National Basketball Association history to average a triple-double for an entire season.

"I just go out when my name is called", he said.

This is probably the most evenly matched first-round series on either side of the bracket.

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Foul trouble will dictate a lot in this series, just like it does in every series.


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