LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Russell Westbrook returned.
Dennis Schroder left.
That was a fortunate turn of events for the Houston Rockets.
James Harden scored 31 points, and Westbrook came back from an injury to face his former team in the playoffs for the first time, helping the Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-80 on Saturday night for a 3-2 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“We’ve missed him the first four games. Now we’ve got him, and let's see what we can do,” Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. “I knew he was going to be a little rusty, but he gave us a nice little spark.”
A two-time scoring champion and the 2016-17 league MVP, Westbrook averaged 27.1 points in his first season in Houston but had played just one game since Aug. 4 because of a strained right quadriceps -- missing the Rockets’ first four playoff games. He finished with seven points, six rebounds and seven assists in 23 minutes against team where he played the first 11 years of his career.
“He brought that energy. He brought that excitement we were missing,” Harden said. “We need him.”
Schroder led the Thunder with 19 points — 18 of them in the second quarter, when Oklahoma City had its only lead of the game. But he was ejected midway through the third for hitting P.J. Tucker in the groin while trying to fight through a screen; Tucker also was ejected after retaliating with a head-butt.