Thunder 124, Rockets 94
Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s win at Houston.
- Not much to say about this one. The Thunder turned it on late in the second quarter and ran away. Thank you. Good night.
- I’m not getting off that easy, am I?
- It was a 16-0 Thunder run in the final four minutes of the second quarter that won this game. OKC turned a 52-50 lead into a 68-50 advantage at the half. Houston never had a shot from there.
- The Rockets never got closer than 13 the rest of the way and trailed by at least 20 throughout the final 20 minutes.
- The way the Thunder closed the game was easy to overlook. But it was as impressive as anything else that took place tonight. OKC hasn’t finished games strong very often this season, and with four of the five starters not playing at all in the fourth it was possible the Thunder could have let up like it has so many times in the past. Not tonight.
- Scott Brooks on the finish: “It’s important to keep building on your habits. You can’t play the scoreboard. It’s easier said than done…I thought our guys did a good job closing out the game. We held them under 40 percent and that’s really good against the Rockets.”
- In the first quarter, the Thunder’s defense was terrible. As a matter of fact, both teams’ was. But the Rockets are sort of OK with that as long as they’re scoring points. The Thunder never wants to allow 31 points on 50 percent shooting…in any period, let alone the opening quarter. But OKC was playing at Houston’s pace rather than sticking to its principles.
- Russell Westbrook: “The first quarter, we were just going back and forth until one team decided to play defense. And that was us.”
- In the final 28 minutes, the Thunder held the Rockets to 44 points on 30.4 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. Wow!
- Kevin Durant scored 11 of the Thunder’s 16 points in that game-changing spurt.
- KD on the key: “We attacked the basket. We got to the line. And I think that slowed them down a little bit. We got back. We caused some turnovers and was able to get some quick points.”
- Houston turned it over five times and missed all six of its shots in the final four minutes of the second quarter.
- The Thunder had a season-high 16 steals tonight, three of them coming in those final four minutes of the second.
- Brooks: “Just the activity with our hands. We were using our length, we were getting into the passing lanes, we were contesting every pass and getting into the basketball. And that’s what happens. When you put a player under duress you have a chance to turn it over. If you don’t have any pressure on them there’s no chance to turn them over.”
- This was the Thunder’s largest road win since winning by 41 at the Clippers on April 15, 2009.
- Nick Collison notched his first double-double of the season tonight with 12 points and 10 boards. He added three assists and three steals. How cool would it have been if Nick had a triple double?
- Westbrook was amazing tonight. He finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals. He turned it over five times, but none of them were terrible. His early offense carried the Thunder, as he got into the paint at will and actually finished his layups while mixing in an occasional jumper. And his defense was dang near dominant. He helped hold Jeremy Lin in check and hustled throughout the night much better than he did two nights earlier against Dallas.
- Westbrook made 11 of 22 shots, the first time since Dec. 4 that he’s shot at least 50 percent. “I felt comfortable,” he said. “This is probably the first night all year I shot the ball well. But I got to put two games together.”
- A big part of the blueprint to success against the Rockets is getting back in transition. The Thunder made it a focal point and the message clearly got across. You could tell when Westbrook hustled back after hitting the floor on a drive early in the game. It was a great sign, because we all know Westbrook has a tendency to coast back on defense when he hits the deck…But then Westbrook, after catching up to the action, lost Toney Douglas and gave up a backcut that led to a layup.
- James Harden: 25 points, 6-for-17 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, four turnovers.
- In two games against his former team, Harden is averaging 21 points on 27.2 percent shooting.
- Brooks on Harden: “James was really good for us. He’s a terrific player. He’s an All-Star player. He’s definitely at that level, and he’s going to be that way for many, many, many years. He still has improvement to make in his game and he’s really good now.”
- Thabo Sefolosha did a fantastic job on Harden. Harden missed some good looks, but Sefolosha stuck with him throughout his time on him and limited the damage as best he could. Eleven of Harden’s points came at the foul line, where he attempted 14 freebies.
- Did I mention that the defense stunk in the first quarter? Houston scored 20 of its 26 first-quarter points inside the paint.
- Kevin Martin drew light boos as he checked in with 4:08 left in the first quarter and upon his first few touches. What did he ever do to Rockets fans?
- Tonight, K-Mart torched them, scoring 19 points off the bench on 6-for-14 shooting. He said it wasn’t a big deal playing in the Toyota Center for the first time since being traded. “It’s not really on the same level as James (returning to Oklahoma City) because I was only here for a couple of years,” Martin said. “It’s more like Sacramento would be it for me. That’s where my emotional attachment is. But it’s always good just to come back here and play in front of people that supported you the past couple of years.”
- How fun would it have been if K-Mart and Harden got into a one-on-one battle tonight? They hit back-to-back 3s on each other, and the game’s flow had the potential of going down that road for a moment. But with neither player being selfish guys it didn’t last.
- Durant and Kendrick Perkins wrote a 3-year-old’s name on their shoes tonight in honor of the boy accidentally shooting and killing himself. Both wrote “RIP Ryder Rozier” and “12-15-12,” the date of the Guthrie-area boy’s death on the side of their shoes.
- Hasheem Thabeet has at least one heckler in every arena. Must be incredibly hard for him to stay positive through so much overt negativity.
- If you judged his game just on tonight, you’d think Lin should never shoot outside of three feet.
- I noticed Harden griping at his teammates each time they made a mistake more than he ever did before.
- Cole Aldrich checked in and was whistled for three fouls in three minutes. Of course, within those three fouls he had his obligatory offensive foul on an illegal screen. He finished with three fouls and four turnovers in eight minutes. I know I’m late, but I think I’m ready to admit Sam Presti made a mistake.
- Reggie Jackson reverted to some of his old ball-handling ways tonight. Douglas really got up into him and pressured him, forcing frequent fumbling and a turnover or two. He’ll have to be stronger with the ball. It’s a good sign that he said as much after the game.
- Chandler Parsons really would have been nice on this Thunder team.
- You can’t ignore that Houston was playing the second night of a brutal back-to-back after playing at San Antonio on Friday. Still, Rockets coach Kevin McHale doesn’t want your sympathy. “We aren’t laying brick in 110 degree weather. We’re playing basketball,” he said.
- Up next. Phoenix (again) on New Year’s Eve.
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