With the Houston Rockets stealing Game One without Russell Westbrook, they would be wise to not rush him back from his injury.
When the Houston Rockets first received word that Russell Westbrook was going to be out of commission due to injury, the initial reaction from Houston Rockets fans was filled with doom and ominous undertones. How would the Rockets fare without an MVP winner in the postseason, was the question that began to circulate.
Betting lines were instantly changed and the national media personalities that praised the Rockets during the hiatus suddenly reverted back to their old ways of predicting the Rockets to lose. We almost immediately began to hear expedited timelines for Westbrook’s return, which wasn’t the right call, considering the nature of Westbrook’s quadriceps injury.
Although I’m far from a doctor, we’ve commonly heard that soft-tissue injuries can easily be re-aggravated, if not given the proper time to heal. But aside from that, there was never any reason for Rockets fans to worry, as the Rockets have other options at guard that are more than capable of filling in for Russ, and allowing him to take the necessary time to recover.
In Game 1 of the Rockets’ opening series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets received big contributions from Eric Gordon and Ben McLemore, as expected. Gordon has proven to be able to flip the switch in the postseason, and did so, yet again, on Tuesday evening.
Playoff EG (as we should now call him around this time of year) exploded to the tune of 21 points, and finished second on the team in assists, with four. Gordon was noticeably quicker and blew past defenders, en route to finishing at the basket for easy points in the paint. In addition, Gordon found his outside shot, as he went 2-of-6 from 3-point range, which was a great sign of things to come from the former Sixth Man of the Year.
Why Rockets must allow Westbrook to fully recover
McLemore also showed out in his postseason debut, as he finished with 14 points on just eight shots. McLemore torched the Thunder from long-range, as he made 57.1 percent of his attempts from deep, which was also a team-high. McLemore also had a true shooting percentage of 87.5 percent, which led the way for the Rockets as well.
These contributions played a major part in the Rockets opening victory of the series. But although the Rockets won 123-108, Austin Rivers didn’t play to his capabilities, as he finished with four points on 1-of-5 from the floor, which should also be reassuring for the Rockets’ ability to fare without Russell Westbrook.
We’ve seen how Rivers can take over games when the Rockets need him to, and he certainly won’t be limited to 20 percent from the floor again this series. With Rivers, Gordon, and McLemore in the fold, the Rockets would be wise to give Westbrook as much rest as needed, because the postseason is a war of attrition, and the Rockets haven’t been so lucky in past years in that department.
But it won’t be easy to convince Westbrook to rest in a postseason game, as he’s proven to be a gladiator and has shown an addiction to the game. But the Rockets can’t allow him to play if he’s limited or hindered in any way, because their other guards have proven to be more than capable of leading the Rockets to victory in his absence.
On top of that, the Rockets will need Russ at full strength when the going gets tough, and we know it certainly will in this series.