Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Rockets Blast Thunder in Game One

Rockets Blast Thunder in Game One

Game 1 of this duel between the two former teammates went decidedly to Harden.

James Harden had his way with Andre Roberson and shot 46.4% from the field and ended the game with 37 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and a mere 2 turnovers in 34 minutes of play. The shot put the Rockets up 73-62.

They have led their respective teams to the positions they find themselves in, with Westbrook pulling off a record for triple-doubles in a single season and Harden not all that far behind. They take a 1-0 series lead over OKC.

Those expectations have gone up a bar with home court advantage now though and the pressure on James Harden to ensure there isn't an upset is vast. He nailed four 3s, but none of those numbers were more important than his greatest duty of the night: Guarding Westbrook nearly the whole time.

They were tied at halftime and knotted at 88-88 after three quarters.

He also had his fair share of highlight-reel moments - most notably his crossover of Thunder big man Enes Kanter en route to a wide-open layup.

In the final regular-season meeting of the teams, the Rockets had no choice with Ryan Anderson out with a sprained ankle.

"Nah, it was a legal screen", Beverley said. "Jimmy is going to have his turn to guard him".

Westbrook didn't have much help from his teammates, either. It's going to take a team effort to level the series in Game 2 but I'm looking specifically at Victor Oladipo to make an impact after he finished with just six points on one of 12 shooting in Game 1.

Sunday's Eastern Conference action got underway in Washington, where John Wall scored 15 of his 32 points in a dominant third quarter to lead the Wizards to a 114-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener. The Thunder entered the postseason as the No. 1 rebounding team in the National Basketball Association, but were outrebounded 56-41 by Nene, Clint Capela and Co.

HOUSTON (AP) - When J.J. Watt attended the Houston Rockets' playoff game on Sunday night, he got a front-row view of Patrick Beverley's intensity. A couple of possessions later, Beverley hit a pair of corner three-pointers, which added to Houston's 25-12 run to close out the quarter.

He scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, was plus-18 in the box score and provided outstanding defense against Westbrook. He brings it every game.

"He's just Pat", Harden said.

Oklahoma City will remain in Houston for two days of practice before Game 2 on Wednesday night at the Toyota Center.

"We've been here before", Westbrook said. They won one on their homecourt and regardless of if you win by 20, two, 40, it doesn't matter.

"We just gotta bounce back", Gibson said. Sunday night, Beverley was his usual bundle of intangibles, but also added 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Houston led by 11 points late in the third quarter in that matchup on November 16, by 13 in the third quarter when it won at Oklahoma City 102-99 on December 9, and by 18 before holding on for a 118-116 home victory on January 5. During this year's All-Star Game festivities, both were inseparable.

Eric Gordon: After his first healthy season in what feels like forever, we get to see Eric Gordon play a pivotal role on a team expected to advance in the playoffs. "I'm really excited tonight", said Tara May, who's been a fan since the 1980s.

Although James Harden is Houston's undisputed star, he can't top Russell Westbrook entirely on his own. To pull off the upset, he has to be head and shoulders the best player in the series.

It was a home crowd excited for the start of what they hope is a long trip through the playoffs.

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