The Thunder enjoyed one of its best opening quarters this season, scoring 36 points while shooting 15 of 23 from the floor. Exceptional ball movement led to great balance and quality looks. The Thunder took a 13-4 lead before Durant, who has been carrying the offense since Christmas, attempted his first shot. By the time he buried his first basket, he gave the Thunder a 17-10 lead with 7:05 left in the quarter.
But then the second quarter started and the Rockets scored 41 points in the period, the most the Thunder has yielded in any quarter this season.
Houston made nine of 14 3-pointers. To put that in its proper perspective, the Rockets were a combined 10 of 17 from inside the 3-point arc and the foul line.
The onslaught started with a Donatas Motiejunas 3 with 9:58 left in the period. It ignited a 21-4 Rockets run that turned a seven-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
“They were on fire from 3,” said Durant, “but it is really hard to sustain that in this league.”
OKC slowly chipped away in the second half and seemed to grow more confident in its ability to secure a comeback win with every Rockets miss.
The Thunder outscored the Rockets 24-10 in the third quarter, holding Houston to 3-for-17 shooting in the period. Houston had twice as many turnovers as made field goals.
“We got more stagnant,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “We came out and missed some shots. We had some good looks early in the third quarter. We missed some layups, had some layups blocked at the rim. It seemed like our offense just at that point couldn’t make anything. We couldn’t make a basket.”
The Thunder took advantage, going on a 14-6 run in the fourth quarter to open what proved to be an insurmountable eight-point lead.
As history was happening, the Thunder had no idea.
“We was so lost in the game we didn’t realize it until we got in the locker room,” said Durant of the historic turnaround. “But we just tried to take it a possession at a time. It was special to see everybody play for each other.”
Brooks called the performance “inspiring.”
“But like I tell the guys, ‘It’s like an NBA season, there’s ups and downs,’” Brooks added. “This game, giving up so many points and then locking up on the defensive end, allowing them zero 3s, is kind of like the ups and downs of a season. We’ve had some moments that we haven’t played to our standards. But we still just kept chipping away and figuring out ways to get better.”
It’s why you love this team.
It’s why you never turn away.