Can the Rockets defeat the Thunder without Russell Westbrook?

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Rockets have been matched up with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first round of the playoffs, but do they stand a chance without Russell Westbrook?

Perhaps we should have known that destiny would see the Houston Rockets facing off against Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2019-20 playoffs. Unfortunately, in true Houston sports fashion, destiny also decided that Russell Westbrook would miss at least the beginning of this series.

This circumstance presents quite a challenge for the title-hungry Rockets, as they may be without their other MVP for as long as the entire first round of the playoffs. Is this a challenge that James Harden can lead his team to overcome?

To begin forming an answer to this, let’s start with the team’s record in games where Harden plays, and Russ does not. In the regular season, the team is 7-6 in games where Harden carried the load by himself and 3-4 since the trade for Robert Covington.

Of the five losses, Eric Gordon was also not playing in two of them. However, none of the wins were against particularly impressive teams, as they were either low in the seedings or were missing key players as well. At the very least, none of them were as good as the Thunder are.

There isn’t a solid answer at which to arrive regarding the team’s success with Harden alone, as the difference in the number of wins to losses is small. Still, we have seen Harden lead the Rockets to victory without Westbrook a handful of times this season so we know it can be done.

Additionally, Harden has proven himself capable of winning games without another star by his side consistently throughout his tenure as a Rocket, so that bodes well for Houston.

Next: Breaking Down the Matchup