Houston Rockets vs. OKC Thunder: Playoff Matchup Confirmed
By Ben Casey
Fans have expected this for a while, but now it’s official. The Houston Rockets are set to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
In a lot of ways, this is exactly what the Houston Rockets want. They’ve beaten the LA Clippers in both of their matchups so far, but Doc Rivers and company are unpredictable. I wouldn’t want the Rockets going up against an angry Chris Paul who’s determined to get out of the second round before age makes it impossible.
Houston has lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, but it was before Patrick Beverley returned from injury. Other than James Harden, Bev is the most important man to have on the floor against OKC. Nobody else can attempt to contain Russell Westbrook. Even with his absence during that mid-November showdown, it took some serious heroics from Russ to win by a measly two points.
Since then, the Rockets have beaten the Brodie three times in a row, capped by a convincing 137-125 victory in Houston. Of the Utah Jazz, Clips, and Thunder, Houston has by far the most favorable matchup.
That being said, the postseason is a completely different animal from the regular season. After an entire year of being discounted for MVP by some due to his team’s record, Westbrook will be licking his chops at the idea of beating his biggest rival for the trophy.
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In addition to that extra tenacity, the Thunder also have a pretty significant size advantage. Steven Adams is a bigger and better center than any of the Rockets’ big men, and Enes Kanter is dangerous as well.
OKC is a top 10 defensive rebounding team and is second in the league in offensive rebounding. Clint Capela and Nene Hilario will have their work cut out of them.
The good news is that the Rockets have a player just as dominant as Russell Westbrook. Though he’s not averaging a triple-double, James Harden has been better than the Brodie in just about every statistical category this season other than rebounding. The Beard will be looking to validate his own case for MVP and will not take the playoffs lightly.
Given the other teams that were in contention, the Houston Rockets should be happy to be playing the Thunder in the first round. As a battle of the MVP candidates, it’ll be one of the most entertaining playoff series in recent memory. I mean, at least four playoff games between the two most dominant men in basketball right now. That doesn’t happen often, especially in the first round. I’m excited as a basketball fan and as a Rockets fan.
Next: What will D'Antoni's Playoff Rotations Look Like?
Before the playoffs start, we’ll get some playoff predictions and first round analysis up to get you ready for the Beard vs. Brodie showdown.