Thunder (41-30, 14-20 road) vs. Rockets (50-22, 27-9 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 2:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.3 (15th), Rockets – 112.2 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.2 (10th), Rockets – 105.7 (15th)
Contrary to popular belief, this game will not determine who win MVP. One game should not make or break an MVP campaign. And if there is a voter that is using this game as his/her gauge for whom to select, then shame on them for just using one game instead of looking at the whole picture.
With that said, the NBA schedule-maker couldn’t have timed this game out anymore perfectly. The Oklahoma City Thunder having won 6 of their last 7 games, with Russell Westbrook getting triple-doubles in 5 of the 6 victories during that stretch. The Houston Rockets come into this game also winning 6 of their last 7, with James Harden getting triple-doubles in 4 of the last 6 games.
These two have had amazing seasons, that much is certain. But when it comes to the MVP conversation, many people will reference team record and advanced stats. And while Harden will definitely get the edge in terms of team record, I don’t think Westbrook is getting his due for how well his performance has been in terms of advanced metrics.
Those are how Westbrook stacks up all-time, with the chance of reaching No. 1 in both ast% and VORP. Harden has the edge on stats involving efficiency, but Westbrook has better overall stats. It will be a close race, but I think, in the end, the team success will dominate the narrative and Harden will come away with the award. And he will deserve it. There are two right answers in this year’s MVP campaign, and you’ll be correct either way you choose.
Season Series Summary
This is the fourth and final time these two teams will meet in the regular season. The Rockets lead the season series 2-1, but each game has come down to the wire, with the games being decided by a margin of 2.3 points on average.
Three Big Things
1. Andre Roberson
While the focus of this game will be on the MVP candidates, Andre Roberson’s All-Defense campaign can further be solidified by a good performance in this game. Harden has struggled against Roberson’s length, shooting 29.5% from the field in his three games against Roberson this season.
2. Perimeter Defense
What makes the Rockets more lethal than the Warriors is the amount of shooters they have. While the Warriors can trot out three of the best marksmen in the league, the Rockets can march out about 6 players that can hit from deep consistently. Luckily for the Thunder, one of those players, Ryan Anderson, will be out with a sprained ankle. But knowing Rockets head coach Mike D’antoni, he’ll just start the game small, starting either Lou Williams, Eric Gordon, or Sam Dekker.
3. Attack the paint
Clint Capela is a decent enough rim protector. But outside of him, the Rockets have zero rim protection. It would behoove the Thunder to attack the Rockets in the paint and win the rebound battle by a significant margin.