NBA Playoffs Preview: Thunder vs. Rockets

It is an exciting showcase of James Harden against his former team.  Obviously, Harden will have to do his best of carrying the team as he is their only chance of making it close.  James Harden lit up the Thunder for 47 points in the middle of the season.  But this proven OKC team might be too much to handle.

What OKC needs to do to win: Let everyone except James Harden beat you.  If Jeremy Lin can average 25 points and 8 assists then bravo.  Stick Sefolosha or Durant on Harden and chase him the entire time.  Ibaka will be in the paint to make sure Harden gets no easy buckets.  This will cause OKC to leave Houston a lot of open threes but they have to pick their poison.  At the end of the day, OKC’s superior offense and athleticism should play a key role in their success.

What Houston needs to do to win: James Harden needs to play like the Kobe Bryant of five years ago.  He basically needs to be superhuman.  I’m talking averages of about 38 points and 9 assists while getting to the line 14 times a game.  Also, Houston needs to do their best job of giving Westbrook nothing easy.  Asik is one of the best basket protectors in the game but Westbrook has developed a silky smooth mid-range jumper.  Harden will likely have to dedicate a lot of energy to guarding Westbrook.  Lastly, they need to live and die by the three-point shot.  They are sure to get plenty of open looks.  They need to take advantage of that.

Key Matchups:

Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden: Both of these fellas are phenomenal players.  You better believe that wesbtrookWestbrook will be on a mission to attack Harden.  A lot of OKC’s strategy will be to work James Harden on defense.  It takes a whole lot out of you to defend a super athletic Russell Westbrook.  We’ll see if Harden is up to the challenge and if he has enough energy on offense.  Guarding Westbrook may not affect Harden as much as you would think.  Harden will fight through, no matter the situation.

Kevin Durant vs….. I’m not too sure what Houston is going to do about Kevin Durant, especially on the road.  Don’t get me wrong.  Chandler Parsons is a rock solid starter but he is not much of a challenge for Durant.  I see this as a big mismatch in OKC’s advantage.

Prediction: Thunder in Five Games

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