Sunday night opens the 2017 NBA Western Conference Playoffs for the No. 3 seeded Houston Rockets and the No. 6 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in what could be the highest-scoring and most competitive series of the first round.
This NBA Playoffs series not only features two NBA superstars, but James Harden of the Rockets and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder are the top two contenders in the MVP race and will be on the court at the same time in primetime for the first game of this series on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.
The complete schedule for the Rockets and Thunder NBA Western Conference Playoffs series is:
Game 1: Sunday, April 16: Thunder at Rockets, 9 p.m. ET (TNT)
Game 2: Wednesday, April 19: Thunder at Rockets, 9 p.m. ET (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, April 21: Rockets at Thunder, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Game 4: Sunday, April 23: Rockets at Thunder, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 5 (If Needed): Tuesday, April 25: Thunder at Rockets, (TBA), (Channel: TBA)
Game 6 (If Needed): Thursday, April 27: Rockets at Thunder, (TBA), (Channel: TBA)
Game 7 (If Needed): Saturday, April 29: Thunder at Rockets, (TBA), (TNT)
The Rockets enter this series after finishing the regular season 55-27 overall, third in the Western Conference only behind the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the entire NBA.
Leading the Rockets is James Harden, who this season nearly averaged a triple-double with 29.1 points per game with 11.2 assists per game and 8.1 rebounds per game. This season, Harden outplayed all of his career averages.
The Rockets have six players on their roster who are averaging double-digit scoring, including Lou Williams from a mid-season trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, who at the time was the leading scorer for the Lakers before becoming an important addition to the Rockets’ depth chart for these playoffs.
Now for the Thunder, even after losing Kevin Durant via free agency this past offseason, they were still able to battle their way to the NBA Playoffs as a No. 6 seed behind the record-setting play of Russell Westbrook, who became the first player since Oscar Robertson (1960-61 season) to average a triple-double for the season.
In earning his 42nd triple-double this season with the Thunder, three of them included Westbrook scoring at least 50 or more points, as ESPN.com reporter Tim McMahon wrote in a recent article:
“It was Westbrook’s third 50-plus-point triple-double, all of them this season and more than any player in NBA history has in his career. Westbrook has scored at least 40 points in eight triple-doubles this season.”
For the Thunder this season, Westbrook averaged 31.6 rebounds per game, along with 10.7 rebounds per game and 10.4 assists per game in his record-setting season, collecting a total of 42 triple-doubles, making his case to become the NBA MVP.
Westbrook isn’t all the Thunder have on their roster, however. Three others on the roster averaging double-figure scoring, including Steven Adams at 11.3 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game.
This series will most likely not feature a whole lot of defense with the top two scorers in the NBA in Westbrook and Harden, and though they each have solid teammates around them, the main event of this Rockets vs. Thunder series is the two top players in the NBA this season.
Also with Harden and Westbrook is the fact they didn’t rest like some players in the NBA this season, each playing in 81 games with Westbrook averaging 34.6 minutes per game and Harden playing an average of 36.4 minutes per game.
Though the NBA Playoffs began Saturday afternoon with four games already being played, the NBA left the best potential series for last with the Rockets vs. Thunder being the final game to take place over this weekend. This should be an interesting series as it has the capabilities of going all seven games, or it could be over in four — that is what makes this series must-watch TV for any basketball fan.
[Featured Image by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]