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

Harden is the only player ever to score more than 2,000 points, hand out at least 900 dimes and pull down at least 600 boards in a season.

Four extraordinary players top the list of candidates to be named NBA MVP, but the race seems to have narrowed to two, Houston Rockets point guard James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard made history this season as he averaged a triple-double for the entire campaign and broke Oscar Robertson's single-season triple-double record with 42. "Westbrook was pretty much a topic of conversation", Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. And regardless, the National Basketball Association has made a decision to string out the announcment even further this year, with all the major awards being given out on June 26 - provided the National Basketball Association offices aren't leakier than the White House.

Bulls at Celtics on Sunday.

Houston finished eight games ahead of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings, and they had a better record than any team in the East. Isaiah Thomas is a horrific defender but he'll run circles around Rajon Rondo, who can't in turn punish him on the other end.

(2) Cavaliers vs. (7) Pacers: Paul George has had a fine season in IN, and certainly, the return of Lance Stephenson gives another player for the Pacers to annoy LeBron James with (perhaps by blowing in his ear.Google that for a few great memes). I thought winning is what this is about-period. Cleveland doesn't (or at least hasn't) defended well at all this season, but still, I figure they'll find a way to muddle things up. In the final meeting between the teams, the Rockets led by as many as 25 points in their wire-to-wire 137-125 win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will make this series interesting by himself, and don't be shocked if a more than a few people pick the Bucks to upset the Raptors. This might be a wash with Parker in the lineup, but instead.Raptors in 5. It'll allow Harden to get his but it'll also allow the Thunder to do an adequate job of shutting down Harden's supporting cast.

The Rockets have been mindful of the minutes their star guard gets.

"I love being here", he said. It often works, but is it easier to game plan for in a seven-game series than on random nights in the regular season schedule?

Yes, Westbrook has shown, contrary to many predictions, there is life in OKC after Kevin Durant. If it doesn't change, they're not going to win the championship.

After a long regular season featuring 286 road games (all stats approximate) and a last couple of weeks that meant literally nothing, the Rockets finally begin the second season tonight.

(2) Spurs vs. (7) Grizzlies: If last season felt like a last hurrah with Tim Duncan retiring, this one was a transformation to Leonard as a two-way mega-star.

Philadelphia went 22 consecutive times from 1950 through 1971. But, funnily enough, I don't see a way he finishes any higher than four and I think that says far more about the other three than it does about him. Ultimately, though, I think Pops steers the ship to another first-round victory.

Westbrook doesn't want to talk about the triple-doubles, but they are a critical component for the Thunder.

According to ESPN, Harden told reporters, "I think that's the most important thing".

While Russ vs. James will get top billing, but the Rockets' aerial attack, Andre Roberson's defense on Harden, Steven Adams vs. Clint Capela and the Westbrook-Patrick Beverly rivalry are all worthy good subplots. All-in-all though, I'll take the shooting skills of Lou Williams, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to take Houston in a barn-burner.

The West's second-seeded San Antonio Spurs look to put recent playoff disappointments behind and open against Memphis.

  • Julie Sanders