The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder will officially square off in the first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs after the Los Angeles Clippers secured a top-five seed by virtue of a 98-87 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.
CBS Sports NBA provided a breakdown of the three series that have been set with the end of the regular season looming Wednesday:
So the 3-6 matchup in the West is set … 🍿 pic.twitter.com/B0zIpVaRZs
— ESPN (@espn) April 9, 2017
Locked series in the West:
(2) Spurs vs. (7) Grizziles
Jazz vs. Clippers (homecourt TBD)
(3) Rockets vs. (6) Thunder
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) April 9, 2017
With the matchup locked in, top MVP candidates and former teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook will now square off a minimum of four times after the Rockets won the season series 3-1.
In those showdowns, Westbrook averaged a robust 36.3 points, 9.3 assists and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three. Harden, on the other hand, posted tallies of 20.5 points, 12.3 dimes and 7.3 boards per game against the Thunder.
As far as the season series is concerned, the Thunder snatched a win in the first game on Nov. 16, but the Rockets proceeded to rip off three straight victories—including two at Toyota Center.
The most recent victory came in commanding fashion, when the Rockets thumped OKC 137-125 on March 26 thanks to 63.3 percent shooting from the field and 51.3 percent shooting from three.
While the Rockets were scalding to an unprecedented degree in that win, it illustrated the trouble OKC could have matching Houston shot-for-shot come playoff time. Through 79 games, the Rockets rank No. 2 in offensive rating (111.7) behind only the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder, though, rank slightly below average at 16th overall (105.0), per NBA.com.
Oklahoma City has robust defenders like Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Taj Gibson available to frustrate Houston’s bevy of stellar scorers, but keeping pace with a Rockets team that spaces the floor as well as any team in the league should prove to be a daunting task.