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Thunder To Face Harden, Rockets In First Round Of Playoffs

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Family reunion, anyone?

It took all 82 games, but the Oklahoma City Thunder finally has a first-round opponent: James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

Wednesday night was a wild one in the NBA, with three teams battling for the final two spots in the West. The picture became clearer when the Utah Jazz lost an early game in Memphis, securing a playoff spot for both the Rockets and Lakers.

It also turned the Rockets/Lakers matchup into a winner-avoids-the-Thunder scenario. Despite trailing for most of the game, the Lakers exploded in the fourth quarter to force overtime and snatch the No. 7 seed away from a Rockets team that held that spot for most of the season.

Harden and Houston (45-37) must now find a way to do what they couldn't during the regular season: stop the Thunder. Oklahoma City took two out of three meetings against the Rockets this year with the wins coming by 30 and 22 points.

In the three matchups, the Thunder averaged 121 points and 89 shot attempts per game. The Rocket's breakneck pace took them to No. 1 in the NBA in points per game this season but also led to a No. 28-ranking in points allowed.

While the series promises to be fast-paced and high-scoring, the storyline will undoubtedly revolve around Harden facing his former club. The Thunder shocked many in the NBA community when they traded Harden to Houston on Nov. 27, (just five days before the season opener) after the two parties couldn't come to terms on a contract extension.

Houston has marketed Harden as its new superstar and Harden has at least publicly embraced his new role. He is now the unquestioned face of the Rockets.

The Thunder is coming off its first 60-win season since relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Game one of the series is set for Sunday in Oklahoma City. Time is TBD.

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