The Rockets’ Arena Crew Played Some Mind Games With Russell Westbrook On Sunday

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What was billed as the marquee matchup of Sunday, an MVP showdown between James Harden and Russell Westbrook, quickly turned into a mismatch between a team ready to contend for a title and a team that, without an utterly dominant performance from its star, appears lost.

The Rockets dominated the Thunder in Game 1 of their first-round series, an 118-87 blowout in Houston. Harden put on a virtuoso performance with 37 points, nine assists and seven rebounds with only two turnovers to make an emphatic statement to open the series. Opposite that showing, Westbrook struggled with efficiency, shooting 26.3% from the field and turning the ball over nine times on his way to 22 points, 11 boards and seven assists.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Rockets decided to flash one of those “head-to-head” graphics up on the Jumbotron, but instead of putting Harden up against Westbrook, Houston decided to compare Westbrook to Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley.

Now, it’s technically a point guard comparison, but it is also a savage troll job by the Rockets, who are implying that Westbrook compares better to Beverley than Harden. The MVP battle didn’t turn out the way many expected in Game 1 and the Rockets took full advantage of the opportunity to try and show there’s not just separation between Harden and Westbrook, but that Westbrook isn’t even on the same level.

Unfortunately for Harden, the MVP race is over and all votes have been turned in, because there would undoubtedly have been some that would have loved to use this series as a referendum on who is better between the two and he now has a significant leg up in that head-to-head competition.