Brett Dawson: “Harden didn’t do anything to change D’Antoni’s mind on Sunday. But if your preference in the MVP race runs to Westbrook, he might have strengthened your case in defeat. The narrative for Westbrook to win goes like this: Harden has built the Rockets’ remarkable record with the benefit of a fully-stocked offensive arsenal, and Westbrook is asked to do more with less.”
Tim Cato of SB Nation: “We all know Westbrook is on his way to becoming the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season. At this point, with Westbrook still averaging it comfortably and only a few weeks remaining, Westbrook is overwhelmingly expected to get it. If it takes knocking out a couple teammates to ensure he gets defensive rebounds, sure, that’s what Westbrook is going to do! This example is the most cartoonishly exaggerated version of Westbrook stat padding at all costs — clearly, he’s a fantastic rebounder regardless, and the best-case scenario for Oklahoma City is for him to grab a rebound and immediately start a fast break. Those numbers are inflated — James Harden’s contested rebounding percentage, for example, is several points higher than Westbrook’s, according to NBA.com’s player tracking statistics — but with a chance at history on the line, we’re all rooting to keep letting Russ be Russ.”
My story from yesterday’s game. We didn’t learn anything from the game.
Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com: “Harden wasn’t needed to make any statements about being the MVP over Russell Westbrook. The only statement necessary was that Harden has company that can possibly help with a deep playoff run. With Ryan Anderson out for the next two weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Rockets showed the rest of the league, particularly the Thunder, a potential first-round opponent, just how many offensive weapons they really have. Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza combined for 48 points on 24 shots. Clint Capela scored 11 points, blocked two shots and grabbed nine rebounds. Lou Williams, in his first meeting against the Thunder since the late-February trade to the Rockets, was outstanding. He had 31 points on 15 shots and backed up coach Mike D’Antoni’s comments about manufacturing shots for others. Williams had four assists, slightly better than his 3.2 average the past five games.”
Gregg Popovich: “I understand Adam’s concern, and it’s a legitimate concern. We all have it. We all feel badly about [it],” Popovich said Saturday. “I think they used the example of the young man and his dad or whatever. They’ve saved up their money. They want to go see somebody play, and that person’s not there. I get it. If it was me, I’d be miffed myself. But we all have different roles, different jobs, and different goals. We can’t satisfy everybody. But I think that every owner’s gonna be different. I think it’s a slippery slope, and makes it difficult to keep trust, and camaraderie to the degree that I think you have to have to be successful in this league if owners get too involved in what coaches and GMs are doing.”
Fred Katz: “OKC gave up the middle of the floor time and time again, allowing bigs to roll to the rim, guards to dribble there. Harden didn’t just operate in a spread-out lane. He had the the whole 2-point area with Rockets firing 3s even more accurately than they normally do. Small forward Trevor Ariza drained open triples from the corners and the wings. So did Gordon. Harden had uncontested looks. Bench scorer Lou Williams was comfortable enough to start 9 of 9 from the field and 6 of 6 from 3. But Williams also drained some impossible step-backs. He finished with 31 points. Harden banged in tough shots, the prettiest of which came at the end of the third quarter, a 30-foot, buzzer-beating pull-up to give the Rockets a 113-88 lead through three.”