Add the Houston Rockets to the Thunder's growing list of head-shaking losses this season.
Despite having the best record in the Western Conference at 32-10, the Thunder has endured the following:
*A 105-102 loss at the 1-12 Washington Wizards.
*A 106-101 loss at the 9-16 Sacramento Kings.
*A 97-90 loss at the depleted Atlanta Hawks, who were without All-Stars Joe Johnson and Al Horford.
*A 96-90 loss last Friday at home to the 14-23 Cleveland Cavaliers, who were without their best rebounder in Anderson Varejao.
*On Tuesday night, the short-handed Rockets outscored the Thunder 13-1 in the final 2½ minutes to post a 104-103 victory and silence a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Houston limped in with a 7-14 road record, having lost six of its last seven games overall and without the services of its starting backcourt of Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry.
In control with a 102-91 lead and 2:29 remaining, OKC closed out the game by seemingly doing everything wrong.
“That was a tough loss to take. There's no doubt,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said afterward. “We thought the game was in hand, but one thing about coach Mac's (Houston coach Kevin McHale's) teams, they're going to play. They play every possession. They've been down men all season and they keep fighting. That's what they do. That's what we do.
“Unfortunately, we didn't execute down the stretch at both ends of the floor. It's easy to point out the offensive end, but defensively we had major breakdowns, giving up drives, giving up open 3s and transition layups. You can't give up layups. That's a pride thing throughout the game, never give up a layup, and we gave up layups in the last couple minutes of the ballgame.”
Here's the blow-by-blow of the Rockets' knockout:
*With 3:04 left, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka slammed home a James Harden miss as the 24-second shot clock sounded. Officials initially ruled the shot good, making the score 104-91, but said the play would be reviewed at the next timeout.
*The Rockets got a reverse layup and a dunk in a span of 30 seconds to make it 104-95 before an angry Brooks called timeout with 1:51 remaining.
*The replay showed the basket did not beat the buzzer, and OKC's lead suddenly had shrunk to 102-95.
*A Chase Budinger 3-pointer made it 102-98 with 1:22 left. Another Budinger 3-pointer with 56.9 seconds left rattled in and out. “I thought that 3 was going (in),” McHale said.
*With 48.5 seconds left, Goran Dragic fouled Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who overreacted and drew a technical foul when he charged Dragic.
Courtney Lee, who physically held back Westbrook during the skirmish, hit the technical free throw to make it 102-99. Westbrook then made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 103-99.
*Lee hit a layup with 41.4 seconds left to make it 103-101.
*Westbrook committed his second turnover in a 33-second span. Dragic penetrated from the left wing and found a wide-open Lee, who drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 104-103 lead with 15.1 seconds left.
“Did you see me?” a smiling Lee asked reporters. “I was over there for about 10 seconds. Once Dragic saw me, he did his 15 shot fakes. He made a great play by giving it up and passing it out. Just took the regular shot I always take and it went down.”
*In the game's final sequence, Kevin Durant's jumper from the top of key with 2.9 seconds left rattled in and out. Ibaka rebounded the miss underneath the right side of the basket, and his follow attempt was blocked from behind by Patrick Patterson.
Brooks attempted to explain another loss to a lesser team.
“Guys, the NBA's good,” Brooks said. “There's good teams. There's good players on every team. We're not the only good team in this league. Everybody wants to win. We knew going into this game it was going to be a tough game because that's how they play. They're a scrappy bunch of guys. They play every possession.
“If you play hard and give yourself and chance to win, you can never be embarrassed about losing a game in this league. Guys, NBA players are good. They're on teams for a reason. They're very competitive and they're very good and they're going to go out and try their best to win.”