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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Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Breaking down the Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

In some ways, the Thunder are a very similar team to the Rockets. The two teams are one game away from each other in the standings, in the fourth and fifth seeds of the Western Conference.

They are also sort of mirror images of each other with concern to offensive and defensive efficiency. The Rockets are sixth offensively and 13th defensively, while the Thunder are 13th offensively and seventh defensively.

However, some team stats do not paint an optimistic picture for the Rockets. Against the Thunder this year, the Rockets averaged 105 points, their lowest number of points averaged against any other team they faced. Without Westbrook, this is even more dismaying.

The Rockets also shot 42 percent (their second-lowest against any team) from the field and 23.3 percent (their lowest against any team) from deep against the Thunder this season. In comparison, the Thunder saw averages of 45.4 percent and 36.4 percent against the Rockets in those respective areas.

Looking at the stats against each specific team can be somewhat misleading, as the sample sizes are relatively small. But in terms of offensive production and efficiency, the Rockets have not displayed encouraging trends in the few games they played against the Thunder this season.

Replacing Westbrook’s Production

There is no one on the team aside from James Harden that can match Russell Westbrook’s production. But with increased playing time, is there someone who can replace enough of Brodie’s production for the Rockets to win a series against the Thunder?

One possibility is Eric Gordon. While he won’t be grabbing as many boards or dishing as many dimes as Westbrook, Gordon does have the potential to match Westbrook’s scoring output and even surpass his defensive contributions.

Though he has had a rough regular season, Gordon’s return from injury will hopefully see him being the same player in the postseason that we have seen for the past few years: an efficient scorer and great wing defender.

Related Story. Lowe on Westbrook: ‘He’s been an absolute destroyer’

Another potential substitute for Westbrook’s production is Austin Rivers. His recent 41-point performance against the Sacramento Kings reminded many Rockets fans that Rivers can get buckets. With his ball-handling and defensive capabilities, a step-up from him may be enough to edge out a victory.

While Danuel House and Ben McLemore may also fit some of these descriptions, they have been doing so rather inconsistently. Jeff Green, however, may end up being a more significant acquisition than most Houston fans imagined.

Green has proven throughout the seeding games that he can be a very productive player off the bench. With his size, deceptively athletic build, and perhaps an increase in playing time, Uncle Jeff may be able to execute on both ends of the floor at a significantly impactful level.

Next: Comparing Talent Levels