Before falling 95-90 to Houston on Saturday night, the Thunder trailed by as many as 17 points on three occasions in the third quarter, the last time with 3:53 remaining in the period. But Oklahoma City battled back behind a 24-10 run to cut the lead to three with 8:51 left. The Thunder pulled as close as one point with 5:20 remaining but never could take the lead. "I liked the way we battled back,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "I’m proud of our guys. That’s what they do. They’re going to keep fighting until the final buzzer goes off.” The Thunder showed similar late-game resiliency in the first meeting with the Rockets in Houston, as well as games at Orlando and at Denver.
ROCKETS COULD BE A BLOW TO OKC’S PLAYOFF CHANCESThe Rockets secured their 13th straight victory over the Thunder franchise Saturday night, but the more important number was the 3-0 series lead the Rockets hold over Oklahoma City. With the win, Houston won the four-game series and now will have the tiebreaker over the Thunder in the event both teams tie for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. "I think they knew the importance of the game, too,” said Rockets forward Luis Scola. "It’s not only the games that we win but also the games that they lose and also the tiebreaker. It was a pretty big game.” Said Rockets forward Chuck Hayes, "We knew they were behind us in the standings. We wanted to keep them there.” The final meeting in the series is March 24 in Oklahoma City.
DURANT STILL FIGURING OUT BATTIER, ARIZA’S DEFENSEKevin Durant scored 13 points and shot just 6-for-18 against Houston, his third worst shooting performance of the season. In three games against the Rockets, Durant is now averaging just 21.7 points, his fourth lowest against any opponent behind Dallas (12.0 points), Portland (16.0 points) and Orlando (20.0 points). Brooks credited Rockets wing players Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza for limiting Durant’s effectiveness. "Those are premier defenders,” Brooks said. "Ariza’s one of the best perimeter defenders the last couple of years, and Battier’s been doing it for the last seven or eight years. They were a big factor.” Things won’t get any easier for Durant. The Thunder plays the Lakers on Tuesday, a team Durant has averaged 23.5 points against and has proven perimeter defenders in Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest.