Houston Rockets Edge Thunder in MVP Showdown
By Kelly Iko
The Houston Rockets finished with six players in double figures, using a balancing act to edge past the Thunder in the Harden-Westbrook battle.
Sunday afternoon games do little to let the people down. Especially when it’s a showdown featuring two MVP candidates in one of the most neck and neck races you’ve seen since the Olympics in Rio. The Houston Rockets and OKC Thunder didn’t give NBA fans a chance to take an afternoon nap during this one.
Coming into the game, the Thunder had won six of their past seven and seemed to be picking up steam at the right time, when April rolls around. Houston was riding a three game winning streak and James Harden was putting his best foot forward in the race for Most Valuable Player.
The fourth and final meeting between the two looked to be one for the ages. And it was a treat. The Rockets ended up taking the W,and there was no lack of entertainment throughout the game.
The two MVP candidates each had a solid performance. Spoiler Alert: Russell Westbrook snagged another triple-double. Good grief. He finished with 39 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds in the loss. James Harden didn’t stuff the stat sheet quite as full, but he didn’t have to. The Rockets played one of their best team games of the year to take the victory.
Though the Thunder didn’t trail by much at times, they never secured a lead throughout the entire game. This was one to look back on when voters consider who should win Coach of the Year.
The first quarter was marked by a lot of bad passes, missed shots and sloppy play altogether. Houston jumped out to a 17-7 lead but the Thunder answered right back and cut the lead to 6 heading into the second.
Clutch City took care of business in the second quarter, using another 17-6 run and the rebirth of Lou Williams to take a 79-59 halftime lead.
Enes Kanter staked his own MVP case early in the fourth, and OKC cut the 113-88 lead to just 12. But in the end, Houston was able to pull it out with a great all-around effort.
One real issue for Houston throughout the night was offensive rebounding, and hopefully Mike D’Antoni finds a way to fix this before the playoffs, especially if the Rockets end up facing OKC in the first round.
In a game where Ryan Anderson did not suit up due to a sprained ankle, the Rockets didn’t seem to miss a beat as they hit 20 threes at a 51% clip. When Houston is hitting that many threes and at an efficient rate, they are pretty hard to beat. Anderson will probably be rested for a couple weeks as a cautionary tale before the playoffs.
Rockets relieved by test results on Ryan Anderson's ankle. Out for Tuesday, road trip, but expected back before end of regular season.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 26, 2017
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Harden had another great game, 22 points and 12 assists on the night, but the game ball goes to Lou Williams. He had been in a slump the last couple of games, but tonight he had to remind everyone why they call him “Sweet Lou.”
With all the attention going to Russ and Harden, Lou Will might have just recorded the quietest 31 points ever (with 7 threes, mind you). Rockets vet Ariza also chipped in 24 of his own with a great 9-11 shooting night. Oh yea, he made 6 threes as well.
The Beard took a nasty hit late in the game and seemed to hurt his wrist, but according to him it’ll be fine. He can have my wrist if he needs it, I’m just a writer after all. The whole of Houston is depending on Harden to lead us to postseason success.
Next: Should Westbrook's Triple-Doubles Make Him MVP?
As the playoffs draw nearer, they’ll need to figure out how to peak at the right time. Keep up with Space City Scoop for more analysis, news, and opinions on the Houston Rockets.