The basketball gods have done it, gifting NBA fans a chance to see a thrilling first-round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.
More importantly, it's a chance to see Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook do battle against their former teams and we know they'll be doing it with a chip on their shoulders.
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- Game 1 - Tuesday, August 18 @ 6:30 p.m.
- Game 2 - Thursday, August 20 @ 3:30 p.m
- Game 3 - Saturday, August 22 @ 6:00 p.m.
- Game 4 - Monday, August 24 @ 4:00 p.m.
- Game 5 (if necessary) - TBD
- Game 6 (if necessary) - TBD
- Game 7 (if necessary) - TBD
Result: Thunder won 2-1
Best game: Jan. 20, 2020 - Thunder 112, Rockets 107
Best performance: James Harden (Oct 28, 2019) - 40 points, seven assists
We didn't have to wait long to see Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook go up against their former teams but it was former MVP James Harden who stole the show in the first of three games this season between these two teams. Harden dropped 40 point game of the season in the win. Though he shot poorly from the field, the Beard lived at the line shooting 22 free throws that night.
The Thunder spoiled Russell Westbrook's Oklahoma City homecoming cruising to victory in the second game.
OKC came back from down 17 in the third meeting to take the season series.
Each game was played with a playoff-like intensity to it and with personal vendettas to settle, the bubble series should be no different.
Key Storyline: How long can Houston last without Russell Westbrook?
It's without a doubt the biggest storyline of the series and may be the biggest storyline of the playoffs. The Rockets have pulled the trigger on one of the most unorthodox offensive schemes we've ever seen but the success of said scheme ride on the health of Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook has been sidelined with a quad strain since Houston's August 4th loss to the Trail Blazers. He'll miss at least the start of this series and his return is depended on how he responds to the daily treatment.
There's no turning back now, Houston is all in on micro ball. If they're able to get off to a quick start against the Thunder, it will certainly buy Westbrook more time to recover but if they fall down 2-0 early, there may be pressure to rush the former MVP back.
Three Players to Watch
His quad injury will keep him out of the start of the playoffs, but if he's able to come back and be the player he was for Houston right before the shut down than the Rockets may be able to get back into the title discussion.
Without Westbrook, Houston will have a tough road ahead.
James Harden has done everything you'd want of a player worthy of the Hall of Fame, but it's time to start winning and winning big in the playoffs.
Harden's regular seasons have been historic, but his playoff runs have left a lot to be desired. Now with Westbrook sidelined at least for the start of the playoffs, the load is once again squarely on Harden's shoulders.
Can he rise to the occasion, or will this go down as another playoff failure?
It's not many times that you get a chance at revenge in sports. Chris Paul has that chance. The Rockets blindsided Paul with a trade last summer sending him to OKC.
It was a prove-it year for CP3 who had many doubters and he got back to not only All-Star but All-NBA status.
This isn't about numbers or stats anymore, this is about who gets to four wins first. If Paul can do that before the Rockets do he'll have the last laugh.
Picks and Predictions
Carlan Gay: Rockets in seven
Scott Rafferty: Rockets in six
Gilbert McGregor: Rockets in seven
Alex Novick: Thunder in six
Benyam Kidane: Rockets in seven
Yash Matange: Rockets in seven
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