All kinds of complexities could play out when the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
With apologies to LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the outing could be a platform for leading MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden to finally answer the burning question of who should reign most supreme. And then, there’s the matter of playoff positioning, which too remains as a red hot issue as both teams still battle to fortify their standing in the always competitive Western Conference.
If nothing else, the Thunder will be battle tested coming into Sunday afternoon’s contest, having already faced the Mavericks and Grizzlies this week. But no task seems too difficult for Westbrook, even with reigning league MVP Kevin Durant sidelined for the rest of the year with a right foot injury.
During Wednesday night’s 135-131 loss to the Mavericks, Westbrook notched yet another triple double, finishing with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. It marked his 10th triple-double of the season and eighth since the All-Star break. Over his last 10 games, he has averaged 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
It’s the kind of run few people not named James Harden can truly relate to. The Rockets come to the Chesapeake Energy Arena, where Thunder ticket prices will be at an average of $139.75 and a get in of $35. This game has the third highest average ticket price of a Thunder home game in April according to TotallyTickets.com. The Rockets are riding a streak of five wins in six games, including a game where Harden netted a career-high 51 points earlier this week in a win over Sacramento.
The Rockets are also excited about having Dwight Howard (16 points, 11 rebounds) back and are working him into their regular rotation. The Rockets are battling the Clippers and Mavericks for a top-four Western Conference playoff seed, which would equal home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Trevor Ariza also chips in with averages of 13 points, six rebounds and three assists for Houston.
With seven games remaining, the Thunder now lead the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis by two games for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot. But it won’t come easy for Oklahoma City, as after the Mavericks and the Rockets, two of their final five games are against fellow Western Conference powers San Antonio and Portland.