Harden has 37 points, Rockets rout Thunder, Westbrook 118-87

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

Sunday night, the No. 6 seed Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the No. 3 seed Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Perhaps, all season long, and certainly coming into this series, there was a tendency to think these two teams are pretty even from a talent standpoint because Westbrook and Harden are so evenly matched themselves.

The Thunder will need to do what they did to stay close with the Rockets during the regular season, which is mainly hit the basics - pester the Rockets on the perimeter, bully them on the inside, slow down and frustrate Harden, and keep everyone (including and especially Harden) off the line. Harden, who along with Westbrook is a front-runner for MVP, went to the bench after that and both teams cleared their benches soon after that.

Beyond the stats that underscored their success against Oklahoma City, the Houston Rockets showcased that for all the dynamism Thunder guard Russell Westbrook possesses, his individual brilliance isn't always a corollary for victories. Westbrook finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes, with an uncharacteristically poor plus-minus rating (minus-25) to go with 9 turnovers.

"He does it every game", said Harden, who finished with 37 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists.

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Sunday night will feature a matchup of two NBA MVP candidates. But Jimmy Butler overcame a united Garden crowd and led Chicago to the victory, scoring 23 points in the second half. Damian Lillard (34/5/3) and C.J. McCollum (41/8/1) were the focal points on offense for Portland and combined to shoot 28-for-54 from the field for 75 of their team's 109 points. The Rockets finished the regular season with the third-best record in the National Basketball Association (55-27), just one game behind the record of the team that went to the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago.

Oklahoma City is armed to the teeth with bigs - Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Taj Gibson and Domantas Sabonis - yet was unable to overwhelm the Rockets with its advantage in size and bulk. Against the Rockets in Game 1, Oladipo managed only six points on 1-of-12 shooting. Despite the Thunder dropping three out of the four contests against the Rockets, he has posted a pair of triple-doubles and a 49-point outing.

"Westbrook was pretty much a topic of conversation", Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. Tonight was a game where defensively we played really, really well.

"Just being basketball-savvy, you know?"

It was part of a stretch in which he scored seven straight points. "I'm sure they'll bounce back, and we've got to be ready to go".

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