Adams and his fellow giants were forced to switch onto Harden throughout the Houston Rockets' lopsided 118-87 win Sunday night in the playoff opener.
The Thunder pressed Rockets shooters on the perimeter, limiting Houston to 10-of-33 shooting on 3-pointers. The Rockets chose to take the opportunity to troll the Thunder, comparing Russ and Bev in a graphic on the big screen rather than Russ and Harden. "That's never gonna change", Harden said at the Rockets' shootaround on Sunday.
By comparison, he was a monster since Kevin Durant left to join the Golden State Warriors.
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.
On the other hand, James Harden became elite this season, averaging 29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG and 8.1 RPG - not far behind Westbrook's marks. The spotlight belonged to pesky Patrick Beverley. "He just goes out there and plays relentless". They've learned that even on a down shooting night, they can trust their centers to get them quality baskets down low, and they've seen Beverley's ability to frustrate the Thunder's main weapon.
Harden also had 9 assists and 7 rebounds, and Patrick Beverley (Arkansas Razorbacks) had a playoff career-best 21 points along with 10 rebounds for the Rockets.
They were tied at halftime and knotted at 88-88 after three quarters.
The Rockets have had more depth than the Thunder though throughout the season and find themselves finishing in third spot out of a tough Western Conference.
Westbrook acknowledged it will be "cool" to match up against his friend in this best-of-seven series.
One of the other more impressive stories of the evening was how the Houston front court completely outclassed the top rebounding team in the league. "We need to do a better job of rotationally blocking out".
While averaging 11.4 assists in a season is elite, regardless of who you are passing to, it is made a lot easier when your teammates are capitalizing on their open looks. Harden cut off a reporter before he could finish his question about how the focus entering this series is on him and Westbrook.
Clint Capela and Nene outfought Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. The Thunder entered the postseason as the No. 1 rebounding team in the National Basketball Association, but were outrebounded 56-41 by Nene, Clint Capela and Co. But the Wizards, seeded fourth in the East after missing the playoffs past year, out-scored Atlanta 38-28 in the third and led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter. Every game that's my mindset. And Westbrook didn't make either of those shots. I made some shots, but I just try to make the right play. "He was just Pat tonight". Game 2, 10:30 p.m., TNT. It was the start of the Russell Westbrook era, and the all-star guard did not disappoint. Gordon, who has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons, appeared in 75 games, which is the most since he played 78 as a rookie in 2008-09.
"We'll go small", D'Antoni said. In Game 1, Houston barely managed to hit that benchmark, a sign that typically spells trouble for the jump shooting-dependant franchise.
But when you factor in that this was a playoff game and that Beverley was guarding the man who might win MVP, it's hard to deny that this was the Rockets' most-pernicious player's greatest game ever.
Fourteen-year-old Blake Watts brought the picture he painted of James Harden to his first playoff game, perhaps for good luck.