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[BKL] Apr 19, 2017

NBA Playoff Preview: Thunder at Rockets

By SportsDirect Inc. staff

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets (-7.5; 223.5)

James Harden won the battle of MVP candidates in the series opener and that helped the Houston Rockets cruise to a win over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston looks to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference series on Wednesday and Harden will again strive to outplay Thunder star Russell Westbrook.

Harden recorded 37 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in Sunday's 118-87 victory while Westbrook scored 22 points on just 6-of-23 shooting and had more turnovers (nine) than assists (seven). Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni was thrilled with the superb showing but quickly changed gears to remind his club that the 31-point victory still only counts as one win. Oklahoma City typically struggles in Houston with its last victory in the Texas city occurring on Jan. 16, 2014.

ABOUT THE THUNDER: Westbrook's off-shooting outing in Game 1 was bad enough but several members of the supporting cast had poor showings as well. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo was the biggest culprit with a 1-of-12 shooting performance while the frontcourt trio of Steven Adams, Taj Gibson and Enes Kanter combined for just 19 points and were the prime reason why Oklahoma City was outrebounded 56-41.

ABOUT THE ROCKETS: While Harden did his typical damage in Game 1, backcourt mate Patrick Beverley frustrated Westbrook and was a star in his own right with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Post players Nene (15 points on 7-of-8 shooting) and Clint Capela (14 points on 7-of-9) operated at will against the Thunder in Game 1.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The 31-point win in the opener was the Rockets' third-largest margin of victory in the franchise's playoff history behind victories of 33 (versus Phoenix in 1995) and 32 (against New York in 1975).

2. Houston F Ryan Anderson was 1-of-6 in the opener after shooting just 38.5 percent in three regular-season games against the Thunder.

3. Oklahoma City SF Doug McDermott (knee) played just three minutes in the opener but should be available for more playing time in Game 2.
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