Westbrook vs Harden the highlight when NBA playoffs open

Houston ended the season with a 55-27 record and are looking to make a deep run in the playoffs.

However, the Thunder have ended up securing the sixth seed in a bitterly competitive Western Conference and will finish with a total win count in the mid-high 40's. So what kind of schemes and ploys can D'Antoni throw the Thunder's way with a fairly thin frontline and suspect defensive two-guards? The up-and-down style the team plays is conducive to high-scoring affairs but the development of Harden into an all-around player instead of just a volume scorer has been key to the Rockets' resurgence. Or, will Harden guard Roberson and Westbrook guard Beverly? The Beard's Rockets won eight more games than Westbrook's Thunder.

Most expect either Harden or Westbrook to take home the MVP trophy on June 26 after both players had stellar regular seasons.

Steven Adams has again improved this season.

"Playing against the best players in the world, at the biggest stage, that's the goal for every player", Durant said. If he's not feeling his outside shot or is having trouble getting to the basket, life will be pretty tough for OKC during this series. But it's hard to objectively look at this Spurs team and say that it's demonstrably better than the rosters Harden and Westbrook have around them.

Even though Westbrook has dazzled with a record-setting amount of triple-doubles this season, as always, we need to be skeptical.

Patrick Beverley figures to handle those duties first and foremost and the tenacious defender did a pretty good job on the MVP favorite during the teams' regular season meetings.

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JOHN YANG: But to do this, to get the triple-double, you have got to be an all-around player. You have to go out there with a objective and know what you're trying to execute, whether it's defensively or offensively, your schemes, know your personnel, knowing your plays in a nutshell. Plus, he contests 6.6 shots per game (3.4 from behind the arc) and leads the league in loose balls recovered (1.6 per game). Usually overpowered and outgunned, the Thunder often needed every point, rebound and assist from Westbrook to stay within striking range on most nights. A recap on the likely matchups: Capela - Adams Anderson - Gibson (or Roberson) Ariza - Oladipo Beverley - Westbrook Harden - Roberson Things get a little more cloudy if the Rockets want to go five out with Anderson at the centre, Ariza at the four and play three guards, but that lineup is destined for a "live or die by the three" attitude anyway.

Harden had 22 triple-doubles and became the first player in National Basketball Association history to have 2,000 points (2,356), 900 assists (907) and 600 rebounds (659) in a single season. If Kawhi's on their best player, suddenly that guy's standing around on the weak side, barely part of any play. They do have a big advantage down low and when it comes to rebounding the basketball and any hope of an upset could hinge on those two factors alone.

So if Houston starts to pull away, look for the whistles to take over.

Which player deserves to be called the most valuable of the past year?

I've gone back and forth throughout the season.

This will be just his second trip to the playoffs after he appeared in just one series with the Pelicans, in 2015.

The Thunder trailed by 15 entering the fourth quarter and six straight points by the Rockets extended their lead to 100-78 with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining.