The entire world seemed to hold its breath on Wednesday as Russell Westbrook slammed his fist on the scorer's table following the infamous play in which Patrick Beverley's hip collided with his knee during an Oklahoma City timeout. Everyone exhaled after the commercial break when Westbrook returned and played fairly well in the Thunder's 105-102 victory over Houston. But things were much worse behind the scenes then they seemed initially, as Westbrook has been ruled out for the rest of this series.
Whether this gives the Rockets a legitimate chance to pull off the upset is certainly up for debate until Houston proves it on the court, but Oklahoma City losing its second best player gives the Rockets life they didn't have three days ago. And it certainly bodes well for Houston coming home as the Thunder go into tonight's game trying to adjust to life without their dynamic play maker.
Here's 10 reasons why the Rockets could win game three tonight:
0-0: The Thunder's record without Russell Westbrook over his 5-year career. They haven't played a single game without him since he's been in the league and, all of a sudden, they're going to have to adjust to that on the road in the postseason.
24/7/6.5/3: That's Russell Westbrook's production through two playoff games against Houston. He's first on the team in assists (7.0 per game), second in scoring (24.0), second in rebounds (6.5) and first in steals (3.0). And while he wasn't particularly efficient from the floor (41.5%), he was getting to the foul line 7 times per game and making more than 85 percent from the charity stripe.
1: The number of 20-point games in the entirety of Reggie Jackson's career, which recently came April 17 in a loss to Milwaukee, a game in which Westbrook played only 7 minutes. Jackson will likely get the bulk of Westbrook's starting point guard minutes tonight.
22.3%: That's Jackson's career 3-point shooting percentage. Sure, he shot 3-6 through two games in the postseason, but averages usually regress to the mean over time, and that's what is likely to happen to Jackson over this series. He's also not a particularly efficient scorer (career 49 percent TS%) or distributor (19.9 career AST%).
51%: That's James Harden's TS% through two playoff games. This is coming from one of the most efficient wings in basketball who posted a 60.5 TS% this season. He's shooting a pathetic 35% from the floor and 15% from beyond the arc so far, but there's no way that can possibly continue this entire series. Eventually those shots will start falling and he'll stop turning the ball over so often.
25%: That's the Rockets' shooting percentage from beyond the arc through two games, or 18 of 71 shot attempts. Houston was tied with Utah at eighth in the league this season at 36.6%. Their perimeter shooting improved a little from game one to game two as the ball movement was better and their shooters got better looks, but they were still missing really good shots. If the ball movement is there, eventually those shots will start falling.
45: That's the number of fast break points from the Thunder through two games, coming off of 31 Rockets' turnovers. Of those turnovers, six came from Westbrook's steals. The OKC point guard not only terrorizes passing lanes, but he is one of the fastest, most aggressive transition players in the NBA. Losing Westbrook should hurt the Thunder's fast break game considerably.
29-12: That's the Rockets' home record this season compared to OKC's 26-15 road record. The Rockets have already beaten the Thunder once in Toyota Center this year, the thrilling 122-119 victory which saw Harden go off for 46 and Houston overcome a 14-point fourth quarter deficit.
1996: That's the last time the Rockets have been shut out at home in a playoff series, a 4-0 sweep at the hands of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton's Seattle Supersonics. Pay no attention to the fact that this is technically the same franchise and how fitting it would be to be swept by them again 17 years later.
19.6/.138: That's the player efficiency rating and win shares per 48 of Patrick Beverly through two games. He leads the team in both categories and has been an extremely productive, efficient player on both ends of the court. With no Westbrook to bother him defensively and with Beverley likely to start the rest of the series, this is his opportunity to prove his merit as an NBA player. He could regress, but it's doubtful. His greatest strengths as a player are his tenacity and hustle, and those aren't traits which disappear in the playoffs.
Houston still has to prove it fix some of its mistakes in the first two games, but there's a lot of reasons to like the Rockets' chances tonight. What does everyone think? Are there other numbers to suggest the Rockets could win this game? Or does Westbrook's absence not mean as much as it seems on paper?