• Brian L. Barefield

No Cozy Reunion James Harden and Jeff Green use big offensive nights to defeat former team in Game 1

Photo Credit/ Houston Rockets

If there was any heart felt feelings towards the organization that drafted Rockets All-Star guard James Harden and NBA veteran forward Jeff Green you could not tell once they took the floor in their first-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2020 NBA Playoffs in Orlando. The Rockets defeated the Thunder 123-108 to take the first game of the best-of-seven series.

Harden was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2009 NBA Draft in the first round with the third overall pick. Green was selected in the first round as well (5th overall) two seasons earlier when the OKC franchise was still in Seattle as the Supersonics. Both players had huge nights as they continued to apply the pressure to OKC all game long.

The 2019-20 NBA scoring leader (Harden) kept the Thunder defenders off-balance all night as he finished with 37 points and 11 rebounds. His strong second half performance helped keep a surging OKC at bay every time they attempted to cut into the Rockets double-digit lead. Harden shot 66.7% from three-point range in the third and fourth quarters, but it was his no turnovers that was very impressive. Houston finished the game with 20 made three-point baskets.

“Our ball movement tonight was excellent,” Harden said postgame via Zoom. “We were just playing off the catch. Guys were just very confident in their shots.”

Photo Credit/Houston Rockets

One player who had all the confidence in the world was Jeff Green. The Rockets acquired him

after he was placed on waivers by the Utah Jazz in December 2019. Green chipped in 22 points and was the second highest scorer for the Rockets as he continues to make general manger Daryl Morey look like a genius for listening to P.J. Tucker, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook who all vouched for Green’s ability to still play this game at a high level.

“I am just trying to find ways to impact the game,” said Green who was called on to play some point guard during the game as the Thunder used traps to keep the ball out of Harden’s hands. “If we are getting stops and getting out in transition, I know we have the firepower to score on the opposite end.”

Houston was without another former Thunder superstar in Russell Westbrook who was out with a quad injury and although he wasn’t in the game you could feel and hear his energy as he cheered on his replacements in Eric Gordon (21 points) and Ben McLemore (14 points).

This game also brought some outside intrigue as Chris Paul who was acquired by OKC this past off-season for Westbrook nearly finished with a triple double scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out nine assists in the losing effort.

"We're going to figure it out," Paul said. "It's a different team. You play the whole season a certain way and then you've got a team that switches everything. It's Game 1. We've got to figure it out."

Game 2 of the series is Thursday at 2:30pm CST.

14 views0 comments