HOUSTON (AP) " Although James Harden is Houston's undisputed star, he can't top Russell Westbrook entirely on his own.
As is so often the case, Patrick Beverley was there for support Sunday night.
Harden scored 37 points to outshine Westbrook as the Rockets pulled away in the third quarter and coasted to a 118-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Harden had nine assists and seven rebounds, while Beverley, who had the unenviable task of guarding Westbrook, had a playoff career-best 21 points along with 10 rebounds.
Beverley's performance was nothing new to Harden, who has had a front row seat to his work for years.
"That's the reason we're in the position we're in," Harden said. "He brings it every game. Whether his shot is falling or not, he brings that intensity, that resolve. He was just Pat tonight."
The best-of-seven Western Conference series continues Wednesday night in Houston.
The third-seeded Rockets were up by 20 when Harden came off the bench with about seven minutes remaining. He went right to work " making two 3-pointers to power a 10-0 run and push the lead to 110-80 with 4 1/2 minutes left. Harden, who along with Westbrook is a front-runner for MVP, went to the bench, and both teams cleared their benches soon after that.
Westbrook had 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists but made just 6 of 23 shots and had nine turnovers for the sixth-seeded Thunder.
"We've got to do a better job starting with myself " got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball and making some shots," Westbrook said.
Beverley refused to take credit for slowing Westbrook down.
"It was a team effort in just trying to show him a lot of bodies," he said. "He's one of the most explosive guards in this league, so we were just trying to make it tough on him."
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings