Oklahoma City Thunder – Houston Rockets 2013 NBA Playoffs
It took until the final week of the season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder secured the No. 1 seed in the NBA Western Conference to gain home court advantage throughout the 2013 NBA Western Conference playoffs as they attempt to repeat the run to the NBA Finals that they made last year. The biggest difference is the absence of OKC’s third key scorer and bench leader, James Harden. Unable to afford another max contract in addition to the ones already secured by superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder traded Harden to the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the 2012-2013 NBA regular season to avoid losing him for nothing when he was eligible for free agency.
The Thunder chose, instead, to retain the services of power forward Serge Ibaka in the hopes of rounding out a more balanced team on offense and defense. While the move was questioned heavily by NBA analysts when it happened, the regular season results seem to show that Okalhoma City made a good decision, if not the best. Harden and his Houston teammates – including last year’s sensation Jeremy Lin – will do their best to challenge OKC’s mettle and small-ball lineups for round 1, 2013 NBA Playoffs. Can Houston match the Thunder’s powerful, versatile offense with an adequate defensive effort, or is Harden destined to start his summer vacation early while former teammates Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka lead the Thunder deep into the 2013 NBA Playoffs?
The prevailing story for this series will be the return of James Harden to Oklahoma City, the team that traded him to Houston at the beginning of the season. Harden has shown flashes of his brilliance against his former team in the regular season. Will he be able to lead the Rockets against his former teammates to upset the Western Conference No. 1 seed?