The Houston Rockets (45-37) and Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) will open their 2013 NBA playoff series on Sunday, April 21. Before the postseason begins, it may be instructive to look back at the head-to-head series during the regular season. OKC won two of those three matchups and held former teammate James Harden to 9-33 shooting in those wins. Then Harden hit his stride in the final matchup of the season on Feb. 20 and scored 46 points on 14-19 shooting as the Rockets claimed a 122-119 win. Here's a review of each game.
Nov. 28, 2012 | Thunder 120, Rockets 98
Chandler Parsons missed the game with a sore shoulder, James Harden got blocked six times by Thunder defenders, Kevin Durant scored 37 points and former Rocket Kevin Martin added 17 points as OKC ran away with the game late. Here's a short summary from the Welcome to Loud City recap:
Houston was seeing some form of success here and there during this time, shooting really well from three and getting some boards. Unfortunately, Houston's run just wasn't sustainable. Patrick Patterson was having a nice game, but he was really just abusing the mismatch he'd get against a Thunder big man. Harden's game was way too predictable, and the Thunder would always have a help defender waiting for him in the lane. He wasn't able to work in his distribution really well, because the Thunder would leave the least threatening player open for the pass while he was trapped. And he was blocked 6 times. That's right, 6 times. He hit the bottom of the rim once as well. It wasn't just bad, it was abysmal. Oh, and Jeremy Lin was totally AWOL.
Dec. 29, 2012 | Thunder 124, Rockets 94
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 54 points on 19-40 shooting as Oklahoma City outscored Houston in every quarter and jumped out to a commanding 18-point lead in the first half. From there the Thunder sailed to an easy win. Jeremy Lin scored just seven points in 24 minutes, and James Harden put up 25 points on 6-17 shooting.
Feb. 20, 2013 | Rockets 122, Thunder 119
This game was the James Harden game. He scored 46 points and ignited a huge scoring run by the Rockets to overtake OKC in the fourth quarter. The Dream Shake had fun with in recapping the win:
James Harden, in his third game against his old team, was absolutely magnificent, giving the Rockets possibly the best game of the last five years. He scored 46 points on 19 shots, becoming the first Rocket to do that in the history of Basketball Reference's database (since 1985).
Harden was ridiculous, but Jeremy Lin's game shouldn't be discounted. In yet another display of what Lin can do when Harden is getting major attention, Lin went off for 29 points in one of his strongest scoring nights of the season. As the Rockets get younger in the front court, they will lean on this young but more experienced back court for help in games like this. If Lin and Harden can keep this up, the Rockets will be just fine.