Thunder's Westbrook focused on playoffs, not historic season

By comparison, LeBron James played 40 or more minutes 23 times this season, and James Harden did it 15 times.

Forty-five out of the total 61 MVP winners' teams have finished the season first in their conference, and the past 34 MVPs' teams have been ranked in the top three of their conference.

Game 1 of the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets will take place tomorrow night on TNT at 9 p.m EST.

Harden had 22 triple-doubles and became the first player in National Basketball Association history to have 2,000 points (2,356), 900 assists (907) and 600 rebounds (659) in a single season.

James Harden, the MVP favorite, seamlessly embraced Rockets' Coach Mike D'Antoni's wish for him to become a point guard, setting career highs in points (29.1) and rebounds (8.1) per game while leading the league in assists (11.2, also a career high).

Tim Frazier, whose name likely will stump folks years from now when the trivia question is asked of who had the Pelicans' lone triple-double this season, can appreciate Westbrook's feats. His statline of 32 ppg, 10.4 apg and 10.7 rpg is very worthy of the MVP award. Nearly immediately, the previously underwhelming roster blossomed.

Looking at the stats, Westbrook leads the whole league in scoring averaging 32 points per game, but not only that, he is the only player to average a triple double which is an accomplishment that hasn't been done in 50 years which was done by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. His MVP case has been further strengthened by the fact that his team is winning.

And yet, for all that scoring firepower, the defense was often an entirely different story.

The Rockets have the better team. Even so, 21-20 is not exactly the way you want your team to stumble into the playoffs. OKC has only 189 more three-pointers the last two seasons than what the Rockets connected on this season. This is a defensive assignment that'll fall squarely on the shoulders of Beverley, a tough-nosed guard willing step up to the Thunder's out-of-this-world floor general.

That said, the Rockets will have the utmost confidence that feisty lockdown defender Patrick Beverley will be able to limit the Westbrook damage, and may even find a way to get under his skin as has become his trademark.

Houston opens at Toyota Center, a right they earned by grabbing the league's third best overall record during the regular season.

The Thunder certainly can't be counted out, given the way Westbrook has carried them all season long.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets won 11 of their last 17 games to finish with a 55-27 record and the third seed in the Western Conference.

Leading the Rockets is James Harden, who this season almost averaged a triple-double with 29.1 points per game with 11.2 assists per game and 8.1 rebounds per game.

"Just play, man", Westbrook said. He set an National Basketball Association record for most triple-doubles with 42, allowing the Thunder to withstand the loss of All-Star Kevin Durant in free agency and secure the sixth seed.

The Warriors brought in Kevin Durant, which nobody saw as a problem.

Westbrook wasn't the only one who sat, either. He did so a couple of games in the Thunder's final four last year, sitting out in Portland and then again in San Antonio to close the year.

If Nene, Clint Capela, and (maybe) Montrezl Harrell can not contain the OKC bigs, that's a huge advantage for the Thunder. For numerous young Thunder players like Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott, that's something they haven't experienced much yet.

The Thunder's margin for error in this series is negligible.

The Rockets have four players that can be difference-makers against the Thunder.

For the Thunder, that can be Alex Abrines and his three-point shooting ability. Look for the Rockets to capitalize on their homecourt advantage in an emotional (and tight) series opener.

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