A full season later and James Harden finds himself back in Oklahoma City, albeit to hinder his former team’s chances for consecutive NBA Finals run.
Traded to the Houston Rockets before the season began, Harden flourished in the leading scorer role, torching teams throughout the season, and looks to to do the same Sunday night against the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game One of the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The trade worked out well for both teams, with Harden guiding Houston to the playoffs for first time since 2009 and placing fifth in the league in scoring at 25.9 a game. While guard Kevin Martin turned himself into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate at 14 points a game and 42 percent shooting from three for the Thunder.
Harden’s old teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each produced stellar seasons. Durant conceded what would have been his fourth straight scoring title, but clocked in at 28.1 points a game, and joined the esteemed 50-40-90 shooting club.
Westbrook totaled 23.3 points and 7.4 assists, channeling all of his raw athleticism into perhaps his best season yet as a pro.
The Rockets found an excellent complement to Harden in point guard Jeremy Lin. Though he struggled in stretches in his first season in Houston, Lin still ran the second highest scoring offense in the league, and the sixth best passing club as well.
Lin totaled 13.4 points and 6.1 assists, but his play helped develop small forward Chandler Parsons. Now in his second year, Parsons was second on Houston at 15.5 points and first in three-point percentage at a 38 percent clip.
The game begins at 9:30 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TNT, or you can watch a live online stream at TNT Overtime here.
Betting Odds: Oklahoma City is favored by 10 points.
Over/Under: 213 points
Prediction: This should be a high scoring, up-tempo game throughout. OKC head coach Scott Brooks heard some criticism about to much one-on-one in his offense, but the Thunder won’t have to change up much against Houston’s 28th ranked defense. The key matchup will be Thunder center Serge Ibaka against Houston’s Omer Asik. If Asik can control the glass, and Parsons can hit timely shots, the Rockets have a chance.
Predicted Score: Oklahoma City 105, Houston 100