The 2013 edition of the NBA Playoffs was set on Wednesday, marking the path the Oklahoma City Thunder might take to return to the NBA Finals through the Western Conference.
• No. 1 Oklahoma City vs. No. 8 Houston
Looking at the first round matchup, the obvious storyline will be OKC vs. The Beard. Expect that story to be told ad nauseum (similar to “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit”, circa 2006 and Super XL).
In the meantime, Coach Scott Brooks will likely give Thabo Sefolosha the defensive assignment of guarding James Harden, at least at the beginning. Harden is tough to stop and the Thunder might want to mix things up as well. Harden is familiar with his former teammates, but they are just as familiar with him.
Another interesting matchup may be Russell Westbrook and Jeremy Lin. Lin might be more of a traditional true point guard in the eyes of many, but Westbrook is in the top seven in the league, not only in scoring (22.6), but also in assists (7.4 apg). His explosiveness to the basket, which has only improved this season, complements his play while distributing the ball.
And not to bury the lede, but Kevin Durant should be the player to talk about each night. He narrow missed winning the NBA scoring title for a fourth consecutive season (28.1. ppg vs. Carmelo Anthony’s 28.7 ppg), but actually had the most points in total in the league (2,276) for the fourth straight time.
Houston (106.0) and Oklahoma City (105.7) are second and third, respectively, in the NBA this season in points per game, so the games should be very enjoyable to watch for those who like to see points put on the board. But OKC is giving up only 96.5 ppg, and Houston yields 102.5 ppg.
The Rockets are likely to give up a lot of points in an effort to score that many more. Expect Durant to average more than 30 per game in the series.
My pick: Oklahoma City in five.