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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets vs OKC Thunder - First Round of 2020 NBA Playoffs
Updated: September 3, 2020 -- 7:02 a.m. CT
Posted: August 17, 2020 -- 9:30 a.m. CT
How much will Russell Westbrook's injured quadriceps muscle impact the Houston Rockets - OKC Thunder first round playoffs series? No one knows. Currently, the only known about Russ' injury is he will miss Game 1 of the series which tips off Tuesday, August 18, at 5:30 p.m.
When he's healthy, Russ is a relentless force of nature. No other player in the NBA attacks the basket like Russ. Period.
"You can't replace a Russell Westbrook," Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni said Sunday afternoon during his media availability session. D'Antoni added, "But, having said that, we do have a lot of other weapons.
"And, we'll play to the strengths of Eric (Eric Gordon). Not that Eric needs to be Russell; so, we do what we do. We'll make adjustments against Oklahoma City that we think are pertinent. Everybody will be comfortable in their roles and we'll see who plays the best."
Both teams finished this unique 2020 NBA regular season with 44-28 records. OKC and Houston faced each other 3 times this season. Houston went 1-2 in the match-ups: Oct. 28 (Home) Won 116-112; Jan. 9 (Away) Loss 113-92; Jan. 20 (Home) Loss 112-107.
Eric Gordon will start in Westbrook's place. Gordon played in 2 of the 3 match-ups, scoring a total of 15 points on 6-of-23 shooting (2-15 3FGs) while Austin Rivers scored a total of 4 points (2-13 FGs) in 2 games played.
In the 3 match-ups, the Thunder averaged 112.3 points per game on 45.4% shooting while the Rockets averaged 105.0 ppg on 42.0% FGs. OKC outrebounded Houston by 11.0 boards per game.
Rockets forward Robert Covington did not participate in any of the games. Houston acquired Covington in a 4-team trade on February 6, 2020. In 3 games played for the Minnesota Timberwolves against OKC, Covington averaged 14.3 points per game (48.5% FGs), 5.3 rebounds per game, 2.0 assists per game.
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Here is the schedule for the Rockets - OKC First Round Series:
TV / Result
|Tue||Aug. 18||5:30 p.m.||1||OKC||Houston||TFH||Houston 123, OKC 108|
|Thu||Aug. 20||2:30 p.m.||2||OKC||Houston||AHA||Houston 111, OKC 98|
|Sat||Aug. 22||5:00 p.m.||3||Houston||OKC||TFH||OKC 119, Houston 107 - OT|
|Mon||Aug. 24||3:00 p.m.||4||Houston||OKC||AHA||OKC 117, Houston 114|
|Sat||Aug. 29||5:30 p.m.||5||OKC||Houston||TFH||Houston 114, OKC 80|
|Mon||Aug. 31||8:00 p.m.||6||Houston||OKC||AHA||OKC 104, Houston 100|
|Wed||Sep. 2||8:00 p.m.||7||OKC||Houston||AHA||Houston 104, OKC 102|
Houston wins the series, 4-3.
TBD – To Be Determined
AHA – AdventHealth Arena
The Rockets love to play fast. OKC, led by Chris Paul, prefers playing at a more methodical pace. The Rockets ranked 2nd in pace in the NBA season. OKC ranked 21st. Whichever team is able to dictate pace / tempo should win the series.
Westbrook's injury status looms large over this series. Which Rockets players will help Harden share the scoring load: Gordon? Rivers? McLemore? Green?
If Westbrook is healthy enough to play the rest of the series (after Game 1), Rockets in 6. If Westbrook's quadriceps injury keeps him out of more than Game 1 and / or limits his effectiveness, OKC in 7.
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