The Rockets went toe to toe with the Thunder in the first quarter with a 22-22 tie after 12 minutes. The Thunder pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring the Rockets 38-30 and taking an eight point lead into halftime.
In the first half, James Harden led the way with 23 and Clint Capela already nabbed himself a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds, continuing his furious pace from Saturday’s win against the Spurs. Meanwhile, Harden was well on his way to his seventh consecutive 30-point game, matching his career-high. The league-high came in 2016, when Russell Westbrook notched eight consecutive 30-point outings.
Speaking of Westbrook, the Brodie took a slight backseat today to Paul George. His 21 point performance was impressive, but it did not hold a candle to PG’s 28 points and 14 rebounds. George ranks eighth in the league in scoring with a career-high 26.2 points per game and has been the star for the Thunder this season.
The reason why it didn’t work today: Houston’s defense.
Houston immediately stole Oklahoma City’s lead coming out of the second half, beginning the third on an 8-0 run, tying the game at 60. And while the Thunder and Rockets traded leads back and forth in the third, the Thunder held just a two-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
With the fourth quarter beginning and Harden, George and Westbrook all on the bench, it would come down to the supporting casts to make the difference in the game, and Houston’s delivered.
The Rockets held the Thunder to just two points from the 9:30 mark to the 5:00 mark in the fourth quarter. In that span, the Rockets scored 13 points, taking a two-point deficit to a nine-point lead, their largest of the game. OKC attempted a comeback, but fell short as newest Rocket Austin Rivers scored seven of the team’s final nine points to secure the victory.
Rivers’ impact was felt in his debut nearly immediately as he scored 10 points off the bench in 31 minutes and provided stifling defense, predominantly on Westbrook. Capela ended the day with 16 points and 23 rebounds, his second straight game with at least 20 boards.
Eric Gordon also played a big role. On his 30th birthday, Gordon knocked down 17 points. Despite shooting 3-11 from three, Gordon drove and penetrated through the Thunder paint to get some big buckets for Houston down the stretch.
At the end of the day, the Rockets faced a very good OKC team without their second-best player and pulled out a nice win. The Beard did his thing and the supporting cast, well, supported him. In CP3’s absence, everyone has to pick up some pieces, and in the last two games without him, the team has done that.
Let’s see if the Rockets can carry some of their momentum into Thursday when the Boston Celtics visit town. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. CT.