It's almost here. There are two games left in this season. James Harden just dropped a quintessential James Harden line of 35/11/15 including 12-13 from the stripe, 5 3's, and 10 turnovers . I wouldn't say we limped to the finish line, but the way we closed out the season does give some reason for concern.
Apparently, Ryan Anderson is crucial to what this team does. We are 5-5 without him this year and of those 5 wins, only one of them was significant (OKC). In short: No Anderson = Little Chance.
As it stands, we don't have to worry about Golden State until the WCF's so let's leave it at that and focus on what's in front of us: a perfect storm of awesome in the form of HOU vs. OKC in the first round. Heated rivalry? Check. Former teammates vying for supremacy? Check. An MVP trophy on the line? Check. The constant reminder to Sam Presti that roughly $1M per year separated his team from an all-time dynasty and...whatever it is now? Check.
If we can knock down a decent number of shots and rebound the ball we should be fine. OKC is #1 in the league in total rebounding and, not surprisingly, #3 in Opp. Rebounds. On the flip side, Houston is ranked #7 in the league for Total Rebounds and 16th in Opp. Reb.'s. Considering OKC can't shoot, I think this is going to be crucial to our advancing to the 2nd round.
I hope that Harden either goes ballistic and upends the entire narrative about the MVP race, or, preferably, he ignores it, plays team ball, and we walk with an easy 4-0 or 4-1 series win. I think an MVP slugfest would wind up with wins and losses going back and forth to a game 6 or 7 scenario and I am not interested in that.
Any takers on the over/under for Westbrook's Usage Rate in this series? He is currently sitting at 41.8% for the season. I'm taking the over.
The Rockets have shown they are capable of solid defensive play this season. Hopefully, this OKC series can serve as a tune-up since we seem to have let that slip a bit. We will need it moving forward into round 2 against a San Antonio team that will have just dispatched the tough, but out-gunned, Grizzlies.
Looking at the rest of the bracket, I am very excited about the GS/POR series as well as the LAC/UTA series. Portland is a different team with Nurkic in the middle. Lillard/McCollum vs. Curry/Thompson is going to be awesome. Unfortunately for Portland, GS just has too many weapons with KD, Green, Iguodala, Livingston, and the rest. It will be a fun series, but GS should advance with little resistance.
Utah has a chance to make some noise. I'm rooting for them to win for multiple reasons. Mainly, I just want to see the Clippers finally throw in the towel and blow up their team. It's great on paper, but it just doesn't seem to work when it matters. It is strange to root for Utah, but here we are.
Over in the East, almost nothing is set yet. The top 4 teams are set, but their ranks are not. Indy, Chicago, and Miami are all vying for the last 2 spots with Miami the odd man out right now. Somehow, I think everyone is glad about that as Indy and Chicago seem like much less of a challenge in a 7 game series. I would really enjoy watching Miami in the post-season, but it looks like it's not going to happen....
...Unless, Cleveland is looking at the standings and realizes a first round match up against MIL or IND is better than claiming 1st place and that potential first round match up with Miami. Let Boston deal with that. Cleveland can help make it happen tonight as they play in Miami.
What are everyone's thoughts heading into the playoffs?