Thunder's Westbrook focused on playoffs, not historic season

Mark D. Smith- USA TODAY Sports

He averaged a league-high 99.5 touches per game, according to NBA.com's SportVU data, just barely ahead of Houston's James Harden, who was second.

Finally, it goes without saying that Westbrook must be on every night for the team to have a chance.

While Harden is their de facto playmaker, the Houston Rockets have the luxury of playing Patrick Beverley alongside. And, is still the most valuable in the entire league. In what could be the most compelling of the NBA's eight first-round playoff series, Westbrook and Harden clash in a best-of-7 showdown.

Harden played 81 games this season, missing only one practice, the first one after the All-Star break, and one game with the flu. All season long, we've debated whether or not James Harden's offensive creation matters more than Russell Westbrook's triple-doubles.

First team to score 2,000 points in a month since 1992. This looks to be a Houston triumph in six games. An interesting wrinkle D'Antoni has thrown in recently is having Harden defend a bigger player in the post. "His edginess and what he has to do, he has to guard Westbrook. he is a big, big part of what we do". Toronto maintains its two terrific playmakers in the backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who net almost 50 points per game between them - and now have a solid stretch-4 and defender in mid-season pickup Serge Ibaka. The Beard has racked up 22 triple-doubles himself as he has presided over a stunning improvement from the 41-41 campaign, and first-round playoff exit, of 2015-16.

The 2016-2017 National Basketball Association season was highlighted by the MVP debate, which many believe is a two-man race.

It will be interesting to see how many voters share his thoughts.

And 14 games where he scored at least 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. In fact, the Thunder front line of Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and now Taj Gibson are actually quite formidable. The value that James extends so much farther than most players because there are not many, if any, that are virtual locks to lead their teams on a deep playoff run every year.

A tremendous weapon on the perimeter.

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Most consecutive games with 10-plus 3-pointers made (27). In 80 starts this season, he averaged 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He made a awful 34.6 percent of attempts from 16 feet out to the 3-point line, per Basketball-Reference, far below league average and comfortably the worst figure of his career. Capela is one of the five.

No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. Danny Green is a perfectly acceptable starting shooting guard, but Tony Parker has plummeted to the bottom of the starting point guard ranks in the National Basketball Association.

So stopping the Thunder is perhaps not about stopping Westbrook, but rather exploiting everything else possible. That question might be answered in the first round of the postseason when the Oklahoma City Thunder square off against the Houston Rockets. All-in-all though, I'll take the shooting skills of Lou Williams, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to take Houston in a barn-burner.

He's been used sparingly by the Los Angeles Clippers this season, getting into just 25 games.

Kawhi Leonard drives past Russell Westbrook on May 12, 2016.

I think Golden State is the team to beat.

And now the Rockets are the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference going into the playoffs. Oscar Robertson with the old Cincinnati Royals in the 1961-'62 season.

Head coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't subscribe to the philosophy of defense winning championships but it's probably safe to say that end of the court will play a key role in his team going one-and-done or advancing to the next round. The results are impressive.

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