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Rockets’ Russell Westbrook to miss at least first few playoff games with injury

Though the Rockets could only put a timetable on when they will next evaluate Russell Westbrook’s strained quadriceps muscle, the expectation is that he will be out for the first few games of next week’s playoff series and possibly longer, a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking said on Thursday.

Westbrook was ruled out of Friday’s final seeding game against the Philadelphia 76ers after waking up sore on Wednesday, a day after returning from the injury, and undergoing an MRI.

Westbrook had not had any trouble with the injury during Tuesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs or immediately after, according to the individual familiar with the process so far.

Westbrook had said after that game he was confident he would play on Friday and with the weekend’s practices, have enough time to be at full strength for the start of the playoffs Monday or Tuesday.

The MRI, however, indicated a strain that will need enough time that the Rockets will prepare for the start of their first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook’s former team, as if he will initially be out.

“We’ll see how he responds,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said after Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. “We’ll just see next week.”

Westbrook is averaging 27.2 points per game, making a career-best 47.2 percent of his shots. After a slow start while adjusting to his role in the Rockets’ offense and coming off off-season knee surgery, he averaged 30.6 points per game on 51.5 percent shooting, adding 7.9 rebounds and seven assists in those 27 games.

His arrival to the NBA’s campus in Florida was delayed because of a case of COVID-19, but he played in three games before going out with the thigh strain. He played 26 minutes on Tuesday and was scheduled to sit out the second half of a back-to-back before the MRI showed he would have to be out for Friday, too, and likely for longer.