A night after dropping a should win game against the Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets opened up a double-digit lead in the first five minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden had 31 points, 10 assists and was one rebound shy of a triple-double as the Rockets defeated the Thunder, 112-101, earning Kevin McHale his 200th career win as a head coach.
In the first couple of minutes it looked as if the Rockets could be in for a long night and if their shooting troubles from the fourth quarter in Orlando had followed them. The Thunder jumped out to a 4-0 lead with the Rockets looking flat on their shot.
Things quickly changed.
The Rockets led by Harden and Trevor Ariza went on a 21-2 run to take control of the game. They would go on to score 40 in the quarter and lead by 22 points.
There were moments when the Thunder looked like they were going to make a big run and make this a game. The Rockets would answer though and it wasn't just Harden. It would be Ariza with a steal and a break away dunk, a Patrick Beverley three or Dwight Howard exercising some post moves and hitting a pair of free throws to slow their momentum. They never let Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka get into a rhythm. Kevin Durant was the only member of OKC who had any semblance of an offensive game and started out ice cold.
All five Rocket starters reached double figures and Josh Smith chipped in with 13 huge points off the bench.
Speaking of Smith, this could have been his best game of the season. Definitely his best game in a Rockets' jersey. In the first half he played some really stellar defense, forcing two turnovers leading to four easy points on the break. One of them might have been the prettiest fast break I've seen run all season. The ball was passed our times between Ariza, Smith and Corey Brewer; the ball did not touch the floor once it crossed half court.
Truly a thing of beauty.
Smith's work in the pick and roll in the middle of the third quarter was also very nice. This resulted in two easy driving buckets, a dunk and one Josh Smith style bad jumper.
Only other major thing to note is that both Shaq and Charles Barkley think Dwight Howard is the worst person on the face of the earth. That is starting to get old.
The Rockets get to take Friday off before playing the Western Conference leading Golden State Warriors at home on Saturday. Tip is at 7pm and we'll be here to deliver all your coverage.
Vote below on how you think your Rockets did tonight.