The Oklahoma City Thunder have an interesting first round matchup in the NBA playoffs with James Harden and the Houston Rockets. It will be Harden’s first appearance in the playoffs with the Rockets, and it just so happens that his first match-up will be against his former team.
The Thunder’s key to victory will undoubtedly be to keep Harden contained. In the Thunder’s two previous victories against the Rockets, Harden went a combined 9-of-33 from the field. In the Thunder’s single loss against the Rockets, Harden went 14-of-19 with 46 points.
The Thunder are familiar with Harden’s style due to him playing with them the past several years. He is one of the best facilitators in the league and is very hard to stop on a nightly basis, but the Thunder are not looking to stop him exactly — they just want to contain him so that his play is not the difference in games.
Outside of Harden, the Rockets do not have another superstar that they can go to. Jeremy Lin has definitely made a name for himself in the league, but he is far from a ‘superstar’. What makes the Rockets so dangerous is their well-balanced scoring throughout their roster. The Rockets have six players that average double figures in points per game.
The Thunder will have their hands full trying to play good defense against the Rockets. They have to somehow keep Harden under control while also making sure they can cover his teammates who can also shoot at high percentages.
The Rockets are second in the league in points per game for a reason. They have guys that can flat out score. If the Thunder want to avoid a first-round scare, they will have to play solid defense for 48 minutes every night.