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NBA Recap: Thunder Even Series With Rockets

Russell Westbrook has not yet played a postseason game for the Houston Rockets, and that won’t change on Wednesday. The star point guard will miss Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder with the same strained right quad that has kept him out for the entire postseason so far. 

“As soon as they tell me he can go and he feels like he can then he’ll go,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters Tuesday. “He’ll work out today, he’ll get on the court and see how he feels and they’ll make a determination. It’s close. We want to be a little careful. At the same time, we understand the urgency. They’ll make a good call on him and he’ll do the same.”

The Rockets and Thunder are tied 2-2 after four games, and Westbrook’s absence has worn heavily on the Rockets over the past two games. The Rockets scored only seven fast-break points in Game 4, and attempted only 10 free-throws. Westbrook’s presence makes a major difference in both regards. 

James Harden has been forced to carry the majority of the ball-handling load by himself now, and it is clearly taking a toll on him. He missed several 3-pointers short in Monday’s loss, suggesting that he was tired after four grueling games. Chris Paul has exacerbated the problem by hunting for him in switches on the other end. 

The Rockets remade their team at the trade deadline to accentuate Westbrook. Without a center on the floor, he has been able to drive through relatively empty lanes and get nearly whatever he wants at the basket. Harden’s presence keeps them alive in a first-round setting like this, but the Rockets will need both if they plan to make a serious run at the championship. For now, they’ll have to keep relying on Harden and their role players to make it through a dangerous Thunder team that has rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to make this a series. 


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