Pursuant to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets’ upcoming first-round playoff series, Jeremy Brener of The Dream Shake invited WTLC to participate in a mixed panel to debate topics relevant to OKC vs. Houston.
I would like to thank Jeremy for extending this collaborative olive branch. Without further ado, here is Welcome to Loud City’s dialogue from a lively, and diverse inter-site playoff preview discussion.
1)Jeremy Brener: Who is the biggest X-Factor for each team?
Joshua Broom: While Oklahoma City and Houston boast generation-defining offensive talents in Russell Westbrook and James Harden, their primary defenders, Andre Roberson and Patrick Beverly will become indispensable X-Factors during this intriguing opening-round matchup.
Throughout the teams' contested 16-17' encounters Roberson played a significant role in frustrating Harden's explosive scoring bursts. The 6'7 All-NBA caliber defender limited Harden to 20.5 ppg in four meetings -- or 8.8 points below his normal average.
Consider, however, that rugged Patrick Beverley was absent during Oklahoma City's lone seasonal win vs. Houston.
OKC's initial productive outing was catalyzed by Westbrook's season-series low 20 FGA as backcourt-mate Victor Oladipo added 29 vital points.
Yet, with Beverly in tow, Victor Oladipo's output dwindled (17-44 FG in 3 losses vs. Hou) as Westbrook's number of forced attempts (27 FGA) rose.
Undoubtedly, vs.OKC Beverley's presence held a considerable impact for Houston's cause, and there is no reason to doubt that this will be the case when the playoffs open.
Conversely, in addition to Oladipo's fire re-igniting, Roberson must continue to shadow Harden's every step for the Thunder to be effective.
2. Brener: Other than Harden vs. Westbrook, what matchup are you looking forward to the most?
Broom: Without question, "The Kiwi Enforcer" Steven Adams vs. rising big Clint Capela.
I know that I'm a Thunder guy, but I've followed Houston closely this year.
In a fairly undeniable observation, one of Morey's finest recent decisions was letting Howard walk in favor of developing Capela. There is a certain beauty in the Capela/Harden high pNr set.
With that said, I think Oklahoma City is in trouble if Steven Adams fails to emerge from his recent decline -- last 11 games, 48/48 FG/FT%, 8.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg.
Curiously, Adams' once staid bravado has been replaced with apathy as well as a deficiency in pick-and-roll coverage.
Against Houston and Capela, Adams must return to mid-season form, or things could quickly turn in Houston's favor.
3. Brener: What is the Rockets' biggest obstacle for this series?
Broom: I'd say limiting, or possibly withstanding the aftermath of Russell Westbrook's unpredictable, and often unbelievable late-game heroics. Following OKC vs. Denver, sentiment, along with momentum resides firmly within OKC's camp.
Even with all the numbers and technologies we have to analyze this great game, sometimes basketball-outcomes can prove a strange animal. And momentum is a tricky thing.
We will see if Oklahoma City and Westbrook can bottle this sentiment vs. Houston, or if it will dissipate.
Regardless, Houston must be mindful of the preternatural feats Russell Westbrook is capable of. If such occur, Houston must then remain calm and adhere to a solid series gameplan.
4. Brener: Will this series affect the MVP race?
Broom: I believe the regular-season MVP votes will be submitted this Friday, just before the playoffs.
Though, hypothetically, in the court of public opinion, this series wields major impact upon who the NBA universe will regard as their true MVP.
A strong most valuable player case, along with Kawhi Leonard, can be made for both Westbrook and Harden. Of course, though a realist, I'm also a bit partial to what Russell has achieved this season.
However, the realist in me states that he who advances, excluding few scenarios, is most valuable.
5. Brener: What is your prediction for the series?
Broom: An essential, yet painstaking question to answer. With emotions, and personal stakes running high, this anticipated series could veer down multiple paths.
The most obvious is a hard-fought, six or seven game Houston win --due to OKC's road difficulties.
Although, Oklahoma City has proven that on any given night they are capable of defeating the league’s elite.
If Russell Westbrook's unparalleled run coincides with an Adams resurgence and handful of big Oladipo efforts, OKC can advance.
I'll leave that answer there for you guys to ruminate upon. Thanks for including me in this great panel. And let's break some first-round TV ratings for Brodie vs. The Beard!