The Houston Rockets played a complete game on both ends of the court, looking smooth and crisp on the offensive end while showing fast and tight rotations defensively, especially in the first half, and they also got big games from their two superstars to down the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-112 for their 16th consecutive victory.
James Harden led the way with 23 points (8-13 shooting), 5 rebounds, 11 assists, and 4 steals (although he had a sloppy game with 10 turnovers), and Chris Paul dropped 25 points (7-14 shooting), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals to head up the Houston attack, and they received a spirited effort throughout from most of the roster.
Despite a slow start in which they began the game shooting 3-13 from the field, the Rockets cranked up the defensive pressure and forced the Thunder into 13 first-half turnovers and held them to 8 first-half points in the paint to take a 54-45 lead into the halftime break. They also held Oklahoma City to just 43 percent shooting in the first half, and they controlled the game with an impressive half-court defense that kept the Thunder’s offense in check.
Houston’s defense wasn’t quite as good in the second half, but the offense more than picked up the slack, as the Rockets scored 68 points after the intermission and finished the game above 50 percent shooting both from the field (53.5 percent) and from three-point range (they shot 17-33).
The offense was good enough to rack up a 19-point second half lead that the team saw withered down to 11 as the fourth quarter drew to a close, but P.J. Tucker grabbed a clutch rebound and the Rockets mostly hit their free throws down the stretch to leave Oklahoma with yet another victory.
In addition to Harden and Paul, the Rockets also got 15 points from Trevor Ariza, 14 points from Eric Gordon, 11 from Luc Mbah a Moute and 10 each from Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker to round out seven Houston players in double figures. Nene also pitched in a strong 8 points and 5 boards in just 17 minutes of action.
Russell Westbrook was the leading scorer for the Thunder, finishing with 32 points on 15-27 from the field, and Carmelo Anthony put up 23, though 19 of those points came in the first half, and he was mostly invisible after halftime.
Oklahoma City also got 17 points from Paul George, 16 points and 8 rebounds from Steven Adams, and they got 10 points from former Rocket Corey Brewer to round out their players in double figures. Brewer hit two threes and provided a spark off the bench for the Thunder.
The Rockets now move to 50-13 and will stay ahead of the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference regardless if the Dubs win or lose in tonight’s late game. Houston plays again tomorrow night, staying on the road for a rematch with the Milwaukee Bucks, where they will look for win number 17 in a row.