Everything is on the line for the OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets in Game 7 but the long term impact is vastly different for the two franchises.
The ultimate excitement and drama of a Game 7 are heightened in this particular match between the OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets. It’s not just the rivalry between the teams but the long term impact this match will have on the two franchises.
Certainly, both clubs are anxious to capture the victory and each has their own set of motivations. The Thunder has already won by defying their critics to make the postseason and then pushing the series to the limit.
Regardless of what he’s telling the media, captain Chris Paul would delight in taking down the club who traded him to the very club they told him they wouldn’t days earlier. Factor in the Rockets tapped Russell Westbrook as his replacement assuming his age, talent, and iron man demeanor gave them a better shot at winning the title. That and the fact James Harden pushed management and ownership to get it done.
How Game 7 will affect the future of the OKC Thunder
However, if OKC wins it also adds questions to the list of offseason choices for Sam Presti. The fact the team as constructed could get into the second round might change his timeline for breaking up the team and entering full-on tank mode.
The Thunder isn’t under pressure to trade Chris Paul right away and a win could strengthen the argument to keep CP3 another season. His presence would offer additional tutoring time for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and impact on the other Thunder youngsters.
Moreover, a win could entice Presti to re-sign Danilo Gallinari and focus on adding some perimeter shooting.
Lose and the franchise may logically move toward its first effort in tanking. But, with all those stockpiled draft picks from other teams there isn’t a priority to tank. In essence, the Thunder can do what the Celtics have done for years which is to remain competitive while using the picks from other teams to bolster the roster.
Alternatively, a loss by the Rockets would set off all kinds of trouble in Houston. Daryl Morey did what his superstar wanted trading away Paul to get Westbrook. At the time the thinking was Paul was injury prone and on the downside of his career. It’s hard to ignore the fact Paul has been the healthier of the two this season.
Then factor in it was Paul who took over late in Game 6 to orchestrate the OKC Thunder victory while Westbrook fell into old habits or trying to move as fast as his brain was processing the game and that led to the pivotal turnover that iced the game for OKC. This isn’t Russ shade there are far too many games where he’s delighted the fan base to ever jump aboard that bus. Yet, this was an example of the negatives that come with all the good Westbrook examples.
Having experienced so many seasons of Westbrook doing Brodie things we should also be cognizant of the possibility he’ll be the one who wins the game tonight.
A Rockets’ loss is far worse for the Rockets than the Thunder. They were expected to win this series and make a deep run in the playoffs. Losing in the first round when your owner is Tilman Fertitta will lead to massive changes.
First, most certainly Mike D’Antoni is gone — if he wasn’t already. That became evident when Fertitta interfered early in the season by not extending Mike D’s contract.
Another termination could follow with Daryl Morey getting cut. He dove in headfirst to the small-ball system and if the Rockets lose in round one it’ll likely be deemed a failure and the person who’ll pay for it is Morey. Again, it’s not like that wasn’t a possibility given the infamous tweet in the preseason.
One other person stands to be under heavy criticism if the Rockets lose and that’s their franchise cornerstone, James Harden. Since his arrival in Houston, he’s been behind the ousts of Dwight Howard, Kevin McHale, and Chris Paul. At every turn, the Rockets have done precisely what he demanded. Adding Chris Paul got them to the Western Conference Finals and close to the Finals.
But, his unwillingness to run it back and fix the issues that hampered advancing last season led to the knee jerk reactions this season. It wasn’t CP3’s fault. They argued on the sidelines and we’ll never know what the details of that disagreement were.
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Could it have been the Point God suggesting they lock down on defense and push the ball inside? That seems like a possibility. In that fateful last game Paul played in Houston he shot 11 of 19 and 3 of 6 from deep collecting 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished six assists with two turnovers.
Harden scored 35 with seven coming via his 12 free throws. He shot 11 of 25 and 6 of 15 from deep adding eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and committed six turnovers. His reign in Houston has allowed him to have a say in shaping the organization. A loss tonight could change that dynamic because the question will have to be asked whether the former MVP has had too much say in shaping the franchise.
Either way, a win tonight will have an impact on the future of the teams. While Thunder Nation hopes for victory, at least they know regardless of the outcome the future is bright in OKC.