Most Valuable Player votes are already in, so the debate that has dominated NBA discussion over the last few months won't be settled in the next two weeks. But a series between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder will only make the discussion more heated.
Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double, something that hadn't been done since Oscar Robertson did it 55 years ago. James Harden averaged 29 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, something that hadn't been done since Oscar Robertson did it 52 years ago.
Two incredible seasons. Only one can win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. And only one can advance to the conference semifinals, because it's Rockets-Thunder in the first round, a series that just might be determined by the supporting casts.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 3-6 series in the West, with links to let you dive in and explore more.
Houston Rockets (55-27)
Pace: 102.5 (3)
OffRtg: 111.8 (2)
DefRtg: 106.4 (18)
NetRtg: +5.4 (3)
- Most improved team in the league, 5.5 points per 100 possessions better than they were last season. They had the second biggest jump in OffRtg (6.3 points scored per 100 possessions), and were also the league's eighth best team in regard to defensive improvement. With the league average OffRtg jumping 2.3 points per 100 possessions and only four teams allowing fewer than they did last season, the Rockets allowed just 0.8 more.
- Last season, the Rockets took 73.1 percent of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range. This season, they had the league's second biggest increase in percentage of shots from came from the restricted area or 3-point range, leading the league again at 81.9 percent. They set another record for percentage of their shots from 3-point range (46.2 percent) and ranked fourth in percentage of shots that came from the restricted area (35.6 percent).
- Were 21-0 when they shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
- Opponents shot a league-high 66.7 percent in the restricted area.
- Only 2.2 percent of their possessions were post-ups, the lowest rate in the league.
- Starting lineup - Harden, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela - scored 122.7 points per 100 possessions in 505 minutes together, the best OffRtg among 46 lineups that played at least 200 minutes.
- Eric Gordon made an NBA-record 206 3-pointers off the bench. Lou Williams ranked second in threes off the bench (161) and also had 168 more free throw attempts off the bench than any other player.
- Harden led the league with 723 total minutes of possession, 6.8 pull-up 3-point attempts per game, 11.2 assists per game, 27.1 points created via assists per game, and 368 assists on 3-pointers, 84 more than any player had in a single season prior to this year.
- After leading the league in corner threes each of the last three seasons, Trevor Ariza (77) had one fewer than league-leader Klay Thompson (78) this season. He shot just 1-for-9 from the corners over his final three games of the season.
- According to SportVU, Gordon (146), Ariza (122) and Harden (121) ranked third, fourth and fifth (behind Stephen Curry and Thompson) in 3-point attempts in the first six seconds of the shot clock.
- Anderson had the biggest drop in usage rate (from 24.2 percent to 17.9 percent) among players that played at least 1,000 minutes each of the last two seasons.
- Were 7.0 points per 100 possessions worse than they were last season (plus-6.9 NetRtg). That was the biggest NetRtg drop-off in the league.
- Ranked last in the league in both passes per game (260.5) and passes per possession (2.63).
- Led the league in total rebounding percentage. Were one of two teams (Denver was the other) to rank in the top five in both offensive rebounding percentage (first) and defensive rebounding percentage (third).
- Led the league with 49.9 points in the paint per game. Only Milwaukee (38.2 percent) took a higher percentage of their shots from the restricted area than the Thunder did (37.7 percent).
- Allowed their opponents to get 35.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the second highest rate in the league. Only New York's defense allowed a higher percentage of shots to come at the basket.
- Were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better with rest (plus-1.5) than they were on the second game of a back-to-back (minus-7.6). That was the third biggest differential in the league (behind only Detroit and Indiana).
- Outscored their opponents by 2.8 points per 100 possessions in the first and fourth quarters, but were outscored by 3.5 points per 100 possessions over the second and third quarters.
- Were 33-9 when Westbrook recorded a triple-double.
- Westbrook led the league with 31.6 points per game, 42 triple-doubles, four 50-point games, 247 points in the clutch, 5.7 fast break points per game, and 12.3 pull-up jumpers per game.
- Westbrook's usage rate of 40.8 percent was the highest since play-by-play data started being recorded in 1996. He ranked sixth in usage rate last season (31.3 percent) and had the second biggest increase in usage rate (behind Harrison Barnes) among players who played at least 1,000 minutes both seasons.
- Were 12.2 points per 100 possessions better with Westbrook on the floor (plus-3.3) than with him off the floor (minus-8.9). That was the seventh biggest on-off NetRtg differential in the league.
- Westbrook led the league with 6.7 fast break points per game. His 388 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock were 70 more than any other player.
- According to SportVU, Westbrook and Adams ran 1,308 ball screens this season, most in the league.
- According to SportVU, Semaj Christon passed the ball 76 percent of the time after using a ball screen, the highest rate among 89 players who used at least 300.
Season series: Rockets won 3-1 (2-0 in Houston)
Nov. 16 @ OKC - Thunder 105, Rockets 103
Dec. 9 @ OKC - Rockets 102, Thunder 99
Jan. 5 @ HOU - Rockets 118, Thunder 116
Mar. 26 @ HOU - Rockets 137, Thunder 125
- Only five Rockets played in all four games. Patrick Beverley missed the first meeting and Ryan Anderson missed the last meeting, which was the only one after the Rockets traded for Lou Williams and the Thunder traded for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.
- Andre Roberson defended James Harden for 32:32 over the four games. That's the most any opponent defended Harden this season. He shot just 10-for-33 (2-for-14 from 3-point range) against Roberson. Among Western Conference opponents, only the Warriors held Harden to a lower field goal percentage.
- The first three meetings were all within five minutes in the last five minutes. Westbrook (4-for-17) and Harden (2-for-8) combined to shoot 6-for-25 in the clutch.
- Nene shot 23-for-30 (77 percent), the best mark among all players who took at least 25 shots against the Thunder this season.
- Harden recorded a double-double in all four games. His 49 assists were 15 more than any other player had against the Thunder this season and his 25 turnovers were 10 more than any other player had against OKC.
- Westbrook had the most points (145), assists (37) and turnovers (24) against the Rockets this season.
- The Thunder were a minus-13 in 44 minutes with Westbrook off the floor. The Rockets were a plus-5 in 44 minutes with Harden off the floor. In the 137 minutes that both were on the floor, the score was Thunder 325, Rockets 324.