SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina previews Game 7 of the series between the Rockets and Thunder and discusses how last year’s trade involving Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul is affecting it.


The Houston Rockets took an early 2-0 lead in first round of the Western Conference playoffs but the Oklahoma City Thunder countered with two straight wins to tie up the series. 

By Game 5, Russell Westbrook returned from an injury that kept him away from the first four games and James Harden showed out with 31 points and five assists, taking the Rockets past the Thunder. The Thunder responded in Game 6 with a victory that featured Chris Paul scoring 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter.

Game 7 tips off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and the winner will go on to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.

Who has the edge in Wednesday’s elimination game?

Here’s what our NBA experts have to say about the highly anticipated matchup:

Mark Medina: Chris Paul is healthy, while Russell Westbrook is rusty. That gives the Thunder a distinct advantage in a decisive Game 7. It can rely on Paul’s smarts, leadership and clutch play. And the Rockets? They can only hope that Westbrook snaps back to form while also playing on a minutes restriction.

Jeff Zillgitt: Houston, no Oklahoma City, no Houston. OK, I’ll go with Oklahoma City. Really, I can go either way in this one. But I’ll stick with the Thunder.

Analis Bailey: CP3 — Mr. Clutch himself — will help take the Thunder past the Rockets in Game 7. Even if Russell Westbrook redeems himself in this finale and has zero turnovers, Chris Paul will still continue to deliver from downtown and lead his younger teammates to the second round.

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Previous games:

Game 1: Rockets 123, Thunder 108

Game 2 : Rockets 111, Thunder 98

Game 3: Thunder 119, Rockets 107 

Game 4: Thunder 117, Rockets 114

Game 5: Rockets 114, Thunder 80

Game 6: Thunder 104, Rockets 100

For NBA news and analysis, follow @USATODAYNBA on Twitter.


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