Thunder's Westbrook focused on playoffs, not historic season
Apr 20 2017 by Kelly Saunders
Donovan and the Thunder were rigid with Westbrook this season, resisting the temptation to play him an entire fourth quarter even as the Thunder bench let leads slip (OKC was outscored 8.9 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the bench).
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Aesthetic and personality tastes end up dictating which one you choose to accept more as having the most value. The Thunder are not one of them so getting up and down should pay off in a big way as these games progress. Not to mention, the Houston Rockets were eight games ahead of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings and will host the Thunder for their first-round series beginning Sunday night. "Thirty-five, 34, 36 minutes, somewhere in that range we felt like was a really good number, just based on the medical staff looking back on his career".
If Harden and Westbrook do indeed finish first and second in some order in the MVP race, this will be the twelfth time since 1980 - the year the media started voting for the award - that the top two finishers faced off in a playoff series. The up-and-down style the team plays is conducive to high-scoring affairs but the development of Harden into an all-around player instead of just a volume scorer has been key to the Rockets' resurgence. He enters this postseason No. 4 at 5,572 points - behind only No. 3 Kobe Bryant (5,640), No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762) and No. 1 Michael Jordan (5,987).
Tim Frazier, whose name likely will stump folks years from now when the trivia question is asked of who had the Pelicans' lone triple-double this season, can appreciate Westbrook's feats.
"It's definitely cool", Westbrook said.
Harden's supporting cast is a big reason as to why they won as many games as they did this year. On averageoverall, the Rockets are 14 of 40 on 3-point attempts. ". I'm happy to be a part of it to say I had a triple-double in the National Basketball Association and to say I did it in the same season that Russell and James and LeBron all those guys went insane this season doing it". And, as LeBron said, we're not playing tough enough.
To beat them Westbrook will need to be up at the level he's occupied for nearly the entirety of this season. Curry already played for the most winningest roster in National Basketball Association history over a three year span.
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James Harden, the MVP favorite, seamlessly embraced Rockets' Coach Mike D'Antoni's wish for him to become a point guard, setting career highs in points (29.1) and rebounds (8.1) per game while leading the league in assists (11.2, also a career high).
In one corner, there's James Harden, the inventive left-handed assassin that's a threat from every spot on the court.
Harden notched 22 triple-doubles this season.
The Thunder finished dead last in team three-point shooting percentage at 32.7 percent, while the Rockets were in the middle of the pack at 15 with 35.7 percent.
The series appeals as one of the sexiest of the first-round matchups around the league purely on the basis of its superstar matchup. The MVP discussion this year shifted away from the previous back to back victor as Russell Westbrook and James Harden tried to put a new emphasis on stuffing the stat book. It's possible for Houston because the Thunder are too reliant on Westbrook. Should Houston take care of business from deep, that alone may bury the lower-seeded team in this series. There are usually multiple players who could make a strong case for being deserving of the award.