With the Clippers beating the Spurs tonight in San Antonio, we have received clarity on the path awaiting the Thunder in the upcoming playoffs. Oklahoma City is now locked-in to the 6-seed in the Western Conference, an outcome that felt all but decided last night. But now — officially — a (6) Thunder vs (3) Rockets first round battle is on deck.
The Rockets won the season series 3-1, with three of the four contests being settled by three points or less. The teams don’t share many similarities in their approach, with the Rockets wielding a more balanced attack led by MVP candidate, James Harden. The Thunder obviously do things a little differently, living and dying by their own MVP candidate – Russell Westbrook. In any case, we’re looking at what could very well end up being the most exciting/competitive series of the first round.
Although the MVP voting will be over and done with before the action begins, this series feels serendipitous in its timing. Westbrook and Harden have long been the subject of heated disagreements in terms of value, and one way or the other the NBA world will have its answer. The battle will surely rage on, but the way the MVP race will be remembered likely hinges on what happens in this series. One side will be saying “I told you so!” regardless of the outcome.
The health of Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson immediately take center stage, as offensive firepower and the ability to slow down Harden will be major areas of emphasis if the Thunder are to advance. Oklahoma City’s regular season ends next Wednesday (April 12) at home, and the attention will quickly shift to what’s next. The playoffs begin on Saturday, April 15 — although a schedule is yet to be determined.