Familiar faces and new foes in as Rockets and Thunder swapped point guards last summer
This is the series we never knew we’d want. Chris Paul looks to add revenge on the team who came within a game of beating the Warriors in 2018. After a short stint with the Houston Rockets, CP3 was then shipped to Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook and now the very following year they will face each other in a first-round playoff series.
Paul has been surprisingly very good with his new team in which many thought would be a rebuilding season. His guidance has lead to the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander whose increased his scoring by 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds from a season ago.
The Rockets are going to have their hands full trying to contain him. They will have to move forward with Westbrook sidelined as you could imagine Harden playing the entire game. Eric Gordon is expected back but will not be full strength. Luc Mbah a Moute was brought back to shore up the defense but will have to clear quarantine protocols before rejoining the club.
James Harden will have to carry the Rockets
Indeed, James Harden has carried the Rockets before and he’ll have no complaints about doing so in the first round. Russell Westbrook will be sidelined with a strained quadriceps muscle. The expectation is that Westbrook will be out for the first couple of games.
If you’re new to watching the Rockets then, let’s fill you in. This is a team that primarily will be shooting the ball and play with a very small line-up. Oklahoma City doesn’t offer an immediate offensive threat in the paint but will face an above-average rebounder in Steven Adams.
Pending that Westbrook returns the line-up this could be one of the most interesting first-round match-ups across the league. The Rockets hold the biggest advantage by having Harden who is the best player in the series.
As mentioned, the Rockets like the three-point shot or scoring in the paint. The Thunder had defended the three-point shot well this season very well as they’re ranked 2nd in opponent three-point field goal percentage. This is something to watch as the series goes on if Harden struggles offensively.
Competitive first-round series but Rockets advance
The Rockets traded Capela so Westbrook could operate in the paint unimpeded. With that option off the table, you would expect them to try and play even faster.
Chris Paul knows this and would look to utilize Adams down low to punish the undersized Rockets.
The Thunder won the season series 2-1 so expect a very competitive first round. Westbrook’s early absence will make this series longer than it has to be but expect the Rockets to move on.
My Prediction? ROCKETS in 7
(4) Rockets vs (5) Thunder West First Round Schedule
|Game 1||OKC @ HOU||TNT||8/18/20 | 6:30 PM EST|
|Game 2||OKC @ HOU||ESPN||8/20/20 | 3:30 PM EST|
|Game 3||HOU @ OKC||ESPN||8/22/20 | 6:00 PM EST|
|Game 4||HOU @ OKC||TNT||8/24/20 |4:00 PM EST|
|Game 5||OKC @ HOU||*TBD If Needed|
|Game 6||HOU @ OKC||*TBD If Needed|
|Game 7||OKC @ HOU||*TBD If Needed|