By Dan Leach

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets, Sunday, April 16, 9 p.m. TV: TNT

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Current America’s Bookie’s Line: HOUSTON (-7.5), Total: 228.5

MVP vs. MVP.

The Beard vs. Russell.

It’s a dream first round matchup as two teams that feel they have what it takes to win it all and have game-changing players face off. One of these two will win the MVP, unless we have a split vote and co-MVPs, but no matter who wins it in the end, both James Harden and Russell Westbrook have had historic seasons.

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Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s decades old triple double record, and James Harden looked like Micheal Jordan at times this season with his scoring prowess.

Now, it comes down to which supporting cast can have the biggest impact in a series that really could go either way. The Rockets have the better overall team around Harden, but OKC has talent as well and this series is likely set for a seven game bow.

Game 1 of these types of series are always huge and I see this one being back and forth throughout, which is why I am leaning on the Thunder getting the 7.5. Is Houston capable of blowing them out of the water? Absolutely, but with the way both teams have played to end the season and with just how good Westbrook and Harden have been, I see each of them willing their team to be in this one to the end no matter what happens.

This is going to be a heck of a way to end your NBA playoff weekend and I smelling OT in this opening salvo and one of the great opening games to a series we have seen in a long time as these two worthy MVP candidates battle each other. Look for the Rockets to use the home crowd to give them the little boost they need to win this one, but it is going to be a one or two possession type of game throughout.

Shade the Thunder in this one as I feel this should be closer to a four or five point spread than the 7.5 it is as of press time.

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DTM’s pick: (OKC +7.5)