The most interesting individual story-line of this extremely intriguing series is of course James Harden trying to show that the Oklahoma City Thunder made a mistake by giving up on him just before the beginning of the season, but when it comes to overall firepower, it should go to the side that has Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Because even if Westbrook should be continuously criticized for taking more shots than an NBA scoring champion (2010-2012), the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t finish first in the West because he’s a bad player. After a disastrous shooting efficiency earlier in the season, Westbrook finished with 43.8% from the field, cutting down on the amount of floaters he takes, most of the time. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is now on a mission to prove that he’s more than the best scorer in the game, but also the best player on the best team in the NBA.
And behind them there’s enough support of team and individual ability to give them quite an edge against the Rockets, a team they’ve beaten twice by more than 20 points before losing a close one in the third thanks to a heroic performance from Harden and a great one from Jeremy Lin. Serge Ibaka is much more than a defensive stopper these days, averaging 13.2 points per game, while Thabo Sefolosha is one of the best wing defenders in the game with his size and length. Kendrick Perkins? They just hope that he doesn’t get in the way.
The Rockets, on the other hand, prove to be in a confounding state. James Harden, averaging 25.9 points per game, is their best player, but he’s in very poor shooting form. In recent weeks, the tendency to play a more team-oriented basketball, with Lin getting more touches, has proven to be a much more successful way of getting points and wins. How this will be balanced out through the series and in the opening game might be the key to an upset, or at least a closer than expected series.
Predictions – If the Rockets are smart, they’ll make the most of Perkins being a non-factor offensively and get someone to help Lin on Westbrook. Either way, even if it does make it harder for the Thunder, it’s hard to see them losing the opening game in this one.