James Harden is averaging 30.3 points, 12.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds a game, with a true shooting percentage of 65 and a PER of 32.1.
Russell Westbrook is averaging 32 points, 9.9 assists, and 9.7 rebounds a game, with a true shooting percentage of 56 and a PER of 31.6.
The former teammates have become two of the of the biggest stories in the NBA this season as virtual solo acts — they are first and second in the league in time of possession this season, and they are second and third in the league in touches (behind Damian Lillard). Harden is the point guard of Mike D’Antoni’s whirlwind of an offense and has looked at home as a playmaker and scorer; angry Westbrook is just powering through defenses and nobody can stop him.
Wednesday night is the showdown: the 6-4 Rockets head north to take on the 6-5 Thunder.
There are going to be highlights and a lot of points.
I’d say Harden has been the slightly better player this season, but the winner of the showdown will be the one that gets the most help.
The Thunder have lost four in a row and are 20.2 points per 100 possessions better when Westbrook is on the court. The last few games the second unit for the Thunder have been destroyed when Westbrook sat, and the defense that got the team early wins has gone into hibernation. The Thunder are going to count on Andre Roberson to contain Harden — and not get in foul trouble, like he did against DeMar DeRozan recently (once Roberson had to sit DeRozan went off).
The Rockets have a pretty simple scouting report on OKC.
The Rockets are 36.7 points per 100 possessions better when Harden is on the court, and their offense becomes anemic when he has to rest. Surprisingly, they are not running as much as you expect from a Mike D’Antoni team — they are 15th in the NBA, the Thunder play faster. That may change tonight. The Rockets are going to need to find some defense from Trevor Ariza (with Clint Capella protecting the rim behind him) and get offense out of Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and the rest.
Could we see two guys get triple-doubles in one game? Maybe.
But the one we see get help will get the win.