Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets: First Round Preview

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

Rockets look to spoil the Thunder's chance a repeat trip to the Finals.

Just as the 2012-13 NBA season was starting everyone was wondering how many games the Finals between the Thunder and the Heat would go. Then Sam Presti shocked the world and gave James Harden away for 52 cents on the dollar to Houston. This was an absolute panic trade on Presti's part, he wasn't willing to pay Harden what he would have been worth on the open market and as the story goes gave Harden only an hour to think about the deal. Harden's reps didn't respond during that hour and off he went to Houston.

The new narrative for the season was "could the Thunder survive without their big three?"

On paper it appears they aren't missing much and are actually much better defensively despite Kevin Martin being a far worse defender than Harden. Serge Ibaka stepped up his game big time and has progressed throughout the season, but everything else remains relatively the same from last season.

Except their bench isn't as nearly deep and some could say that Nick Collison is their best player off the bench. He won't score 20 points off the bench, but he'll chip in 5-10 and put up about the same in rebounds. Where he excels though is hustle. You simply cannot out hustle Nick Collison. Yes, I still miss Nick and I'm sure all of you too.

Houston was expected to be a lottery team this year, even with Harden, they were one piece away from being a playoff team and a Dwight Howard away from being a force in the Western Conference.

Well the Rockets got into the playoffs and extend their season at least four games. Jeremy Lin stayed healthy and it turns out that Omer Asik could actually play in a startering role and do it effectively.

Houston doesn't have the deepest of benches, but they are serviceable and the benches shorten up. So we'll see how much McHale goes to the bench and how many minutes Derek Fisher gets.

Why is Fisher on a team? He hasn't been useful in any manor in the last five years.

Tale of the Tape

Oklahoma City Thunder

Houston Rockets

105.7

PPG

106

43.6

RPG

43.4

21.4

APG

23.2

8.28

SPG

8.28

48.1

FG%

46.1

37.7

3PT%

36.6

82.8

FT%

75.4

Kevin Durant
Russell Westbrook
Serge Ibaka


Best Three

James Harden
Chandler Parsons
Omer Asik

Kevin Martin

X Factor

Jeremy Lin

Lin is going to have to use all of his energy shutting down Russell Westbrook in this series. He has to stay in Westbrook's shirt and make him work for everything and use his own emotions against him. Westbrook is a bit of a hot head (okay he really is a hot head) and could blow up at any moment, so why not push him toward it and work on him?

The Rockets don't have anyone that can handle Durant and he'll probably have a big series.

The big match-up to watch is actually Harden's offense vs. Thabo Sefalosha's defense. Harden is going to have to average 30 plus in the series for the Rockets to have a shot and he needs to attack the basket as much as possible and get Perkins, Ibaka and Collison all in foul trouble.

Houston is still one player away from being very good, so I'm going to take OKC in five games in this one. Houston wins game three.

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