The Thunder and Rockets went head to head tonight in another Western Conference power battle. Who's a contender? Who is pretending? The Thunder have a lot of ground to make up in the standings and must compete every night just to make the playoffs, meanwhile the Rockets are trying to prove they belong and hold strong in the conference. If they are both pretenders, this game was a great indicator of where they both stand almost half way through the season.
What have we learned to date?
For the Rockets, James Harden can score against anyone. Nobody can stop him. The big question remains DUHWight and if he can elevate his game to 20 and 10 a night. They will need that if they want to be contenders. The addition of Josh Smith has alleviated the loss of Terrence Jones, but they must get the most out of their bench to have any chance of a deep run.
Answer: Contenders, for now. Thank James Harden for that.
How about the Thunder?
When healthy, Westbrook and Durant are the best duo in the NBA. But missing a lot of time has left the Thunder as bottom dwellers in the West standings. The Dion Waters trade has given them a spark, but they have zero room for error if they hope to make the playoffs. They must win 2 out of every 3 games just to get to 50 wins, and THAT wont even guarantee a playoff spot. At the same time, there is no team in the league that wants to face them as a 7 or 8 seed.
For this reason, they remain Contenders.
Both teams still have a lot to prove as we push towards the All-Star break but one thing is for sure, the arms race out West is going to make for amazing playoffs. So lets see if both of these team can live up to their talent potential.