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James Harden, Russell Westbrook done talking about who's MVP

20 April 2017, 10:01 | Andy Ferguson

Houston Rockets' James Harden yells after a Oklahoma City Thunder turnover during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Houston. But the Rockets have just three playoff series victories in the last 20 years - the same number Harden had in 2012 alone as the Thunder's sixth man - and Houston is more than tired of early playoff exits. Since 2010, only Miami has more playoff series victories than the Thunder's 10.

However, the OKC Thunder have been playing the cards that have been dealt to them all season and this series will be no exception. The Thunder, who lost Kevin Durant in free agency to the Warriors in the offseason, dropped from the 3 seed past year.

Rockets guard James Harden reached the point he finally passed on an invitation to discuss Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and the race for the MVP. Would Russell Westbrook be able to lead them to the NBA Playoffs?

Beverley's performance was nothing new to Harden, who has had a front row seat to his work for years.

"Obviously he's talented, really explosive (and) athletic", Harden said.

Houston enters the series as a trendy dark horse to break the hold that the Warriors and Spurs have had on the Western Conference in recent memory.

The Thunder, on the other hand, shoot only 25.8 3-pointers a game and make only 8.4 of those attempts on a nightly basis.

None of this means that Westbrook is inarguably the rightful victor of the MVP award, but it's worth noting that players put a higher premium on some of the things Westbrook did this season.

Sitting on the other bench and welcoming the challenge is the league's fastest guard in Westbrook. "Our focus is about the team as one".

Now, the Houston Rockets await Russ and the OKC Thunder.

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Olajuwon finished with one first place vote to Robinson's 73. Harden was first in assists, Westbrook third. Westbrook goes out there bowling himself into the defense, looking for a 300 game.

"Sitting down and talking to him, talking to the medical staff, this was an opportunity [to rest him]", Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said.

D'Antoni has been drilling those numbers into his players' heads for weeks, bringing it up repeatedly as soon as it looked like the Rockets would draw the Thunder in the first round. I think the most trouble the Cavs will have is up front, with Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner having a decent chance of outplaying Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson for a couple of games.

"They are two great phenomenal scorers who can go off at any time", Thompson said about Portland's backcourt, before adding "We're all excited, we're locked in".

Can the Thunder ride Westbrook's back not just to Oscar Robertson greatness, not just to the playoffs, but to playoff success? However, that does not guarantee Houston a series win. The Thunder shot the three-pointer (32.7 percent) worse than every team in the National Basketball Association this season.

The Rockets led 59-54 at halftime.

Over/under records: Oklahoma City 36-44-2, Houston 41-40-1. Jerami Grant had 10 points. Enes Kanter will be a factor as well and has averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Nene had 15 points. The question is whether Houston can corral it just a tiny bit. We were just absolutely garbage. "He makes a lot of it go".

"You know me, it will be fun". And I think, as people think about it a little bit, they are going to think much more than they do right now. Tuesday night's game was meaningless. The playoffs have a ton of fantastic matchups this year but few will be must-see TV quite like this one.

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