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Highlights: Pacers vs. Rockets
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Russell Westbrook had an MRI that revealed a strained right quad, and will reportedly miss the first few playoff games for the Houston Rockets, per the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen. Westbrook was already expected to sit Houston’s final two matchups against the Indiana Pacers and the Philadelphia 76ers, per ESPN’s Tim Macmahon, and he had already missed two seeding games, wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings earlier in the schedule. 

Missing Westbrook early in the postseason isn’t ideal. However, the Rockets do at least have a deep backcourt, with bubble standouts Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore, and they got Eric Gordon back on Wednesday after a two-week absence following a sprained ankle, and of course, former MVP James Harden. 

Still, the Rockets would obviously prefer to have their other former MVP at full strength in the postseason. Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Westbrook has averaged 30.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game for the Rockets. He has been the primary beneficiary of Houston’s decision to abandon the center position entirely, as surrounding him with four shooters has covered his deficiencies in that arena quite well and opened up the lane for him as a driver. 

Houston will be facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, which will be an emotional series for Westbrook, who spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Oklahoma City, as well as for Chris Paul, who was traded to the Thunder by Houston in exchange for Westbrook. 

The Rockets are going to need Westbrook if they plan to make a serious run at the championship. For all of his gifts, Harden can’t carry the entire ball-handling load for four consecutive rounds. Westbrook is one of the most important players of the postseason, so hopefully, he can return to full strength early in the first round. 

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