Nearly everything went right for the Rockets on Tuesday as they dominated their playoff opener without Russell Westbrook, who is sidelined with a strained right quadriceps. Before the game, coach Mike D’Antoni offered a medical update on the star guard, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN, saying the injury is healing, but there’s no set date for his return.
“Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in,” D’Antoni told reporters.
Westbrook was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday to check on his progress, but the results haven’t been made public. A late arrival to the Disney World campus after contracting the coronavirus, Westbrook began feeling soreness in his right quadriceps after an August 4 game. He rested the next two games before playing 28 minutes last Tuesday. An MRI later that day revealed the strained muscle.
There’s more Rockets news to pass along:
- Ben McLemore and Jeff Green both made huge contributions off the bench in the playoff opener, notes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. McLemore hit four 3-pointers in his first career playoff game, while Green, who was signed in late February, contributed 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. “We’re just trying to put the defense on their heels, giving them a different look,” Green said. “We know that all the focus is going to be on James (Harden), so it’s just another opportunity for us to take the pressure off him with Russell out … for everybody to get involved.”
- In a separate story, MacMahon examines D’Antoni’s belief in small-ball, which dates back to when he was in Phoenix more than 15 years ago. The Rockets fully committed to the concept when they shipped out starting center Clint Capela at February’s trade deadline. “If you think something’s right and the numbers prove it’s right, then go all-in,” D’Antoni said. “You can’t muddy the waters. You can’t just go halfway.”
- Chris Paul, who is facing his former team in his first playoff series since being traded last summer, addressed his relationship with Harden, his ex-backcourt partner (video link from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports). “We don’t talk or communicate or nothing like that, but that’s all good and well,” Paul said. “I wish him the best in anything and everything he does. That’s one thing I think people fail to realize, sometimes, in these situations. Sometimes you have teammates, and it is for that period of time. But that’s okay. You can wish each other well going forward. It doesn’t mean you have to be kumbaya, and it doesn’t mean you have to be enemies. At the end of the day, everybody’s got a life to live.”