Oklahoma City At Houston
When: 9:00 PM
ET, Sunday, April 16, 2017
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
The two leading MVP candidates square off in the most appealing first-round series and the festivities begin Sunday in Houston when the Rockets host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook set the all-time record with 42 triple-doubles while Houston star point guard James Harden also enjoyed a tremendous campaign and recorded 22 triple-doubles.
The Rockets won three of the four regular-season meetings but were unable to stop Westbrook, who averaged 36.3 points, 9.3 assists and nine rebounds against Houston. "I think it's fantastic," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said of the Harden-Westbrook matchup. "I think the league is very prosperous because we have some great players that are doing things I don't think any fan has ever seen or if they have seen, they can't remember it's been so long. They've put up unbelievable numbers, unbelievable seasons." Harden experienced some struggles against Oklahoma City by averaging just 20.5 points on 34.3 percent shooting and Westbrook is intrigued by having a playoff matchup against his former Thunder teammate. "It's definitely cool," Westbrook said. "It's a great experience. Something that we can talk about later on down the line. Definitely, it's good."
TV: 9 p.m. ET, TNT, FSN Oklahoma, ROOT (Houston)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (47-35): Westbrook led the NBA in scoring (31.6), ranked third in assists (10.4) and was 10th in rebounding (10.7) to join Oscar Robertson (1961-62) as the lone players to average a triple-double over an entire season. His superb performances equated to victories as the club was a stellar 33-9 in his triple-double games, and coach Billy Donovan expects his star to rub off on his teammates in the postseason. "I think he's excited from a leadership role to try to help guys that don't have that kind of experience, haven't been through it or are going through it for the first time," Donovan told reporters. "I think he'll be the same as he always is. As the season's gone on, I really haven't seen a whole lot of change in Russell from the first day of training camp to now."
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (55-27): Harden finished second in scoring (29.1), led the NBA in assists (11.2) and averaged 8.1 rebounds during the regular season and he is eager to compete with the tenacious Westbrook. "He brings it every night," Harden said of Westbrook. "Definitely a team game. Stats don't matter. You have to go out there and try to get as many wins, first one to four. I just want to win." Houston set an NBA record with 1,181 3-point baskets -- an average of 14.4 per game -- with Harden (262), backup shooting guard Eric Gordon (246) and forward Ryan Anderson (205) all over 200 and forward Trevor Ariza (190) not far off the pace.
1. The Rockets and Oklahoma City met once in the postseason since the Thunder moved from Seattle -- Oklahoma City won the series in six games in 2013.
2. Houston backup G Lou Williams is just 6-of-42 from 3-point range over the past eight games.
3. Oklahoma City SF Doug McDermott (knee) is questionable after missing the final three games of the regular season.
PREDICTION: Rockets 126, Thunder 115
Stats and Records
Houston Off vs
Oklahoma City Def
115.3 Points For
105.8 Points Against