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Harden powers Rockets past Westbrook’s Thunder in NBA playoffs

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James Harden (C) of the Houston Rockets drives to the basket past the Oklahoma City Thunder players during the 2017 NBA playoffs’ first round, in Houston, Texas, on April 16, 2017 © Getty/AFP / Bob Levey

WASHINGTON, United States, Apr 16James Harden scored 37 points as the Houston Rockets routed Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-87 in the opening game of their NBA playoff series on Sunday.

Harden outclassed fellow MVP candidate Westbrook also delivering nine assists and seven rebounds for the Rockets who take a 1-0 lead into game two on Wednesday.

“Tonight was a good game but it is just one win,” Harden said. “We have to be ready to go for Wednesday.”

Westbrook tallied 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists but he also made nine turnovers and missed 17 of 23 shot attempts.

Harden and Westbrook are considered the frontrunners in the league MVP race. But Westbrook’s individual brilliance doesn’t always translate into Thunder victories.

The Rockets held Westbrook to just seven points in the second half as they stretched a five point halftime lead to 33 points.

As good as Harden was Sunday he also got plenty of help from a strong supporting cast.

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors goes up for a layup over Noah Vonleh of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first quarter during Game One of the 2017 NBA playoffs quarter-finals, in Oakland, on April 16 © Getty/AFP / Thearon W. Henderson

Patrick Beverley scored a postseason career high 21 points while Nene chipped in 15 points off the bench for Houston. Beverley also shut down Westbrook defensively when it mattered the most.

Houston shot 49.5 percent from the floor while Oklahoma City shot 37 percent from the field.

“When you are dealing with a team like that it is pick your poison,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

Elsewhere, the Golden State Warriors clamped down in the fourth quarter to pull away to a 121-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in game one of their series.

Golden State, aiming to get back to the NBA finals for a third straight year and regain the crown they surrendered last season to the Cleveland Cavaliers, had 32 points from Kevin Durant in his first playoff game as a Warrior.

Stephen Curry added 29. Draymond Green was everywhere, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, five blocked shots and three steals for the Warriors.

Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls takes a shot against the Boston Celtics during the third quarter of Game One of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 16, 2017 © Getty/AFP / Maddie Meyer

Golden State withstood 75 combined points from the Trail Blazers duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to triumph in a game that saw 22 lead changes.

“We let them get to their spots in the first half,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They still made some tough shots, which they’re going to do. I thought we did a better job in the second half of being a little more physical.”

Durant, acquired as a free agent after the Warriors’ loss to the Cavs in last year’s finals, connected on 12 of 20 shots and also pulled down 10 rebounds.

Game two of the series, a rematch of a Western Conference semi-final last season, is on Wednesday.

– Wall leads Wizards –

John Wall of the Washington Wizards talks to an official in the first half against the Atlanta Hawks in Game One of the Eastern Conference quarter-finals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs, in Washington, DC, on April 16 © Getty/AFP / Rob Carr

Sunday’s Eastern Conference action got under way in Washington, where John Wall scored 15 of his 32 points in a dominant third quarter to lead the Wizards to a 114-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.

Wall also handed out 14 assists while teammate Bradley Beal scored 22 points and Markieff Morris added 21.

German guard Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 25 points and Paul Millsap had 19.

In Boston, Jimmy Butler scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Chicago Bulls held on to beat the Boston Celtics 106-102 in the opener of a first-round Eastern Conference series.

Butler scored five points during an 8-0 run midway through the final period that put the Bulls in control on an emotional night at the Boston Garden.

Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas played the day after his younger sister, Chyna, was killed in a car accident.

Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points, hitting a layup with seven seconds left to cut Chicago’s lead to 104-102.

But Butler dribbled off a few seconds and sealed the victory with a two free throws with just three seconds on the clock.

Game two of the series is Tuesday at the Garden.

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