James Harden returned to Oklahoma City on Sunday night. So did the NBA playoffs. And the Thunder's winning ways.
Kevin Durant scored 24 points and Russell Westbrook had a monster game, missing a triple double by only two rebounds, as the Thunder routed the Houston Rockets 120-91 to win Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook had 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, despite not playing in the fourth quarter. Serge Ibaka had 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots as the Thunder dominated the smaller Rockets.
A capacity crowd of 18,203, almost all of them adorned in royal blue T-shirts that awaited fans on the back of their seats, roared its approval as the Thunder began what it hopes is a trip back to the NBA Finals.
“This atmosphere here is as good as it gets,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Our players realize that. They talk about it. It's a special place to play.”
Harden knows that more than most visiting NBA players. The Rocket star spent three years with the Thunder before being traded to Houston last October.
Harden led the Rockets to their first playoff appearance since 2009, but he was not given the royal treatment in his playoff homecoming.
Harden scored 20 points but made just six of 19 shots. He missed four of his first five shots to open the game, then missed his final five shots as the Thunder blew open the game in the third quarter.
“It's definitely surreal, not only being my first postseason (with the Rockets) but being back here in Oklahoma City,” Harden said. “It's crazy.”
Game 2 of the series tips off at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Chesapeake Arena.