James Harden drove the lane which he has driven so many times before, the north end of Chesapeake Energy Arena's hardwood, and suddenly there was his old pal.
Not trying to block the shot.
Nope, Kevin Durant was so fired up about the start of this reunion tour, he was trying to take a charge. Which he attempts about once a season whether he needs to or not.
“I was surprised,” Harden said. “I thought he was going to try to block my shot. He stood there and moved at the same time.”
The whistle went Durant's way, but that had nothing to do with the Thunder's 120-91 rout of the Rockets on Sunday night. The mentality had everything to do with it.
The high-flying Houstons were grounded. They missed 12 of their first 13 shots and eventually finished 33 of 91 from the field.
Harden made just six of 19 shots. Jeremy Lin was 1-of-7. Chandler Parsons 4-of-11. The NBA's second-highest scoring team broke 90 only on a shot with 34.5 seconds left by Donatas Motiejunas when the game went all junior varsity.
And Durant, the offensive phenom, was no small part of the effort. He dominated Parsons and even guarded Harden for a stretch. Not that any Thunder stayed on a Rocket long.
The Thunder continually switched on Rocket screens, even when playing with surplus big men. Rocket coach Kevin McHale admitted that has bothered his team all season, and it bumfuzzled Houston on Sunday night.
“It was all about giving it your all every possession,” Durant said. “Want to try to make them uncomfortable every time down.”
“Our defense was outstanding throughout the game,” Scotty Brooks said. “This is a very explosive offensive team that can beat you in very different ways. We locked in.
Our defensive energy was good from start to finish.”
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