The Houston Rockets stymied Russell Westbrook on their way to a dominant Game 1 victory. The NBA MVP favorite didn't allow that to happen again Wednesday night.
It just wasn't enough.
The Rockets earned a 115-111 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in their first-round matchup at Toyota Center to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. James Harden scored 35 points, while Lou Williams (21 points) and Eric Gordon (22 points) both had stellar games off the bench.
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The Rockets did not lead at all in the first three quarters, taking their first advantage with a little over eight minutes remaining. That came as part of a 10-0 run by the bench, which knocked down a barrage of open shots with Harden on the pine.
Houston outscored Oklahoma City 29-22 in the fourth quarter, with its depth overcoming a heroic effort from Westbrook. The Thunder guard finished with 51 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists for his sixth career playoff triple-double. He ranks behind only LeBron James and Rajon Rondo for career playoff triple-doubles among active players and passed John Havlicek for eighth all-time.
His 51 points are the most in a playoff triple-double in NBA history, passing Oscar Robertson and Charles Barkley (43).
Westbrook, for his part, made it quite clear he did not much care about his stat line when speaking with reporters:
As he was for much of the 2016-17 season, Westbrook acted as a whirling dervish of offensive production to keep the Thunder ahead until the burden became too much.
No other OKC player scored more than 12 points. Andre Roberson, Doug McDermott and Victor Oladipo were all in double figures, but Westbrook foisted all the responsibility on his shoulders. He finished with 43 of the Thunder's 97 field-goal attempts overall, including 18 of their 29 shots in the fourth quarter.
The shot-happy nature led to some criticism—especially with Westbrook making just four of those attempts:
The Rockets, meanwhile, distributed their offense far more evenly. Harden took the most shots on the team with 17, but Williams and Gordon were not far behind with 14 apiece. Houston's three bench players outscored the seven Oklahoma City brought off the bench by 26 points.
Patrick Beverley also added 15 points, six rebounds and four assists for his second straight strong effort. His hounding defense also likely played a part in Westbrook's legs giving out near the end of the fourth quarter.
Game 2 itself was a microcosm of the season for the Thunder and Rockets. While Harden put together a spectacular individual season, it always felt as if he had surrounding talent who could pick up the scoring burden in clutch moments. Westbrook has been the man on an island, responsible for creating everything for himself and others—a burden that is both roster-mandated and self-created.
Westbrook once again rewrote history in a spectacular triple-double Wednesday. It's just looking increasingly like he's fighting a losing battle.