The first round is now officially set, and the schedule for Thunder/Rockets is in place. It all kicks off Sunday night at 8PM CT on TNT, concluding on Saturday, April 29, if the series were to go seven games.
Game 1: @ Rockets, Sunday, April 16, 8 p.m. CT, TNT
Game 2: @ Rockets, Wednesday, April 19th, 7 p.m. CT, TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 21, 8:30 p.m. CT, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, April 23, 2:30 p.m. CT, ABC
Game 5: @ Rockets, Tuesday, April 25*
Game 6: Thursday, April 27*
Game 7: @ Rockets, Saturday, April 29*
The Rockets took three of four against Oklahoma City this season, and possess enough firepower to make any defense sweat. The series is being billed as Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden, but a collection of role players on either side could likely make the difference.
The third-seeded Rockets will look to their depth and three-point shooting to win the series. With two sixth man of the year candidates in Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, along with Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza and Harden, they fired an unbelievable 40.1 three-pointers per game in the regular season — making an NBA record 1,181 of them. Patrick Beverley draws the unenviable task of trying to slow down Westbrook, but he’s as capable a defender as you’ll find at the point guard position. His luck at stopping/frustrating Russ will go a long way in this series.
For sixth-seeded Oklahoma City it will be much of the same, as the Thunder will look to Westbrook to win ball games. However, Andre Roberson and his ability to slow down Harden is as important as any other one factor for OKC. Billy Donovan’s team should be able to win the battle down low, but the pace of the game will dictate how much that really means for the Thunder. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerami Grant logs more minutes than we are accustomed to, as his versatility is extremely valuable against the Rockets’ high-powered attack.
We will be diving further into this series as we draw closer to Sunday, so stick around for more in-depth looks at what needs to happen for the Thunder to move on. Again, Game 1 is at 8PM CT on Sunday night.