HOUSTON -- Beyond the stats that underscored their success against Oklahoma City, the Houston Rockets showcased that for all the dynamism Thunder guard Russell Westbrook possesses, his individual brilliance isn't always a corollary for victories.
The Rockets will host the Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Sunday night at Toyota Center armed with the knowledge that Westbrook can do everything for the Thunder yet it might not be enough.
Houston won three of four meetings between the teams this season, despite Westbrook producing these extraordinary averages: 36.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 9.3 assists.
Houston did so by blending what it does well with negating in part what makes Oklahoma City so potent, excluding its reliance on Westbrook.
The Rockets led the NBA in 3-pointers made (14.4) and attempted (40.3) per game, yet finished a pedestrian 15th in 3-point percentage (35.7).
Against the Thunder they shot 37.5 percent, a mark that would have ranked fifth in the NBA, shooting 60 for 160.
The Thunder led the NBA in rebound percentage (53.4), yet managed only a plus-1.8 rebounding margin against the Rockets.
If Houston continues to hold its own on the glass despite three-guard lineups featuring some combination of James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, the Thunder won't last long this postseason.
"Westbrook was pretty much a topic of conversation," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "What they do well, where they're ranked in the league in offensive rebounding, which means you've got to rebound. Get back in transition obviously for Westbrook. Get them in the halfcourt where they're not quite as good as in full court."
The Rockets claimed the last three series meetings, and despite several white-knuckle finishes should be emboldened by the fact that they led by double digits in all four games this season. That includes a 105-103 loss in Oklahoma City in which the Rockets failed to score for a six-plus-minute stretch in the fourth quarter.
Houston led by 11 points late in the third quarter in that matchup on Nov. 16, by 13 in the third quarter when it won at Oklahoma City 102-99 on Dec. 9, and by 18 before holding on for a 118-116 home victory on Jan. 5.
In the final meeting between the teams, the Rockets led by as many as 25 points in their wire-to-wire 137-125 win.
Houston experienced this success without transcendent performances from its MVP candidate, Harden.
Thunder forward Andre Roberson largely stymied Harden, limiting him to 20.5 points (with a 48.3 true shooting percentage), 7.3 rebounds and 12.3 assists per game.
Harden averaged 29.1 points (61.3 true shooting percentage), 8.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists this season, with his penchant for facilitating coming to the forefront frequently against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City, ranked 10th in defensive efficiency, knows where the battle will be won. If the Thunder can't slow the Rockets' second-ranked offense, Westbrook will need to better than ever.
"How we play on the defensive side (will be key)," Westbrook said. "Obviously, they're a great offensive team. In transition, they do a great job of getting 3s. We've got to protect the 3-point line and make it (difficult for them)."