Nov 28, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) looks to pass on Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) during the game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won 120-98. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs 2013: Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs Houston Rockets (8) Preview

Playoff Schedule

Game 1: Sunday, April 21st at 8:30 CT in Oklahoma City (TNT)

Game 2: Wednesday, April 24th at 6:00 CT in Oklahoma City (TNT)

Game 3: Saturday, April 27th at 8:30 CT in Houston (ESPN)

Game 4: Monday, April 29th (Time TBD) in Houston

Game 5 (if needed): Wednesday, May 1st (Time TBD) in Oklahoma City

Game 6 (if needed): Friday, May 3rd (Time TBD) in Houston

Game 7 (if needed): Sunday, May 5th (Time TBD) in Oklahoma City

Season Record

Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22, Northwest Division Champions) vs Houston Rockets (45-37, third in Southwest division)

Season Series: Oklahoma City Thunder 2-1

November 28, 2012 (120-98 for Oklahoma City)

December 29, 2012 (124-94 for Oklahoma City)

February 20, 2013 (122-119 for Houston)

Key Matchups 

Kevin Durant vs James Harden

Russell Westbrook vs Jeremy Lin

Serge Ibaka vs Omer Asik

Stat Leaders

Points: Thunder – Kevin Durant (28.1), Rockets – James Harden (25.9)

Rebounds: Thunder – Kevin Durant (7.9), Rockets – Omer Asik (11.7)

Assists: Thunder – Russell Westbrook (7.4), Rockets – Jeremy Lin (6.1)

Fun Fact

Kevin Durant recently became the sixth player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club, shooting at least 50% from the field, 40% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

Why the Oklahoma City Thunder will win this series:

They are the far superior team. Only five eighth seeds in NBA history have ever won a first-round series, although three of those five upsets (2007 Golden State Warriors, 2011 Memphis Grizzlies, 2012 Chicago Bulls) have taken place over the last six years. The Houston Rockets are no slouch, but they aren’t ready just yet to contend with the likes of the Thunder. When three of the four best players in the series (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka) are on your side, you have a pretty good chance of emerging victorious. Don’t expect the reigning Western Conference Champions to drop any more than one game in this series.

How the Houston Rockets can pull off the upset:

The majority of the scoring load is going to have to fall on the shoulders of James Harden. In the Rockets only victory over the Thunder this season, Harden scored 46 points on 14 for 19 shooting, including 7 for 8 from three-point range. Even with that incredible offensive output, Houston only managed to win by a minuscule three points. The Rockets and Thunder are ranked second and third respectively in points per game, while Houston is third-worst in points allowed (102.5). In order for this team to keep this series competitive, not only will they need a lot of scoring (even more so) from Harden, but other players like Jeremy Lin and the emerging Chandler Parsons will need to remain consistent and thorough on the offensive end, as well.

Final Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder in five

Chris Walder is the Editor of Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter at @WalderSports

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Tags: Houston Rockets NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder

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