Embraced by a loud standing ovation, the Oklahoma City Thunder delivered an emotional video tribute to welcome Russell Westbrook back to his old stomping ground. Westbrook, who spent 11 seasons in OKC, scored an efficient 34 points (14-26 FG) in his return to Chesapeake Energy Arena Thursday night, but had his homecoming spoiled as the Houston Rockets fell 113-92 to the Thunder.
For only the second time this season, the Rockets failed to score over 100 points, and an enormous reason is due to the continuous offensive struggles of James Harden.
After scoring 41 points shooting 26.4% in a win over the Hawks, Harden came out flat connecting on only one of his first 11 shots. He ended the night scoring a season-low 17 points shooting 5-for-17 (29.4%) from the floor, 2-for-9 (22%) from 3-point range. Despite recording 11 rebounds, it was also an insufficient performance from Clint Capela, as the big man in the middle scored eight points in 29 minutes for the Rockets.
The only player who came close to matching the intensity and focus of Westbrook came from rookie guard, Chris Clemons, who scored 14 points and three rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
The Thunder shot 53.6% in the first quarter and took a 16-point advantage to put the Rockets away early. Houston had no answer for Danilo Gallinari on the defensive end, as the Thunder’s forward scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half. In addition to giving up 20 points to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul put on a show against his former team with 18 points, (7-14 FG, 3-for-7 3PT) six rebounds and five assists in the win.
The highlight of the night came at the 7:28 mark of the fourth quarter when CP3 nutmegged Isaiah Hartenstein, which ended with a floater to extend the Thunder’s lead to 26 points.
The Thunder outplayed the Rockets in nearly every statistical category, but none more so than their hustle on the glass. On a night where Steven Adams recorded only eight boards, Oklahoma City outrebounded Houston 52-39 with Gallinari leading the way with 11 in the win.
Following the 21-point loss to the Thunder, the Rockets will return to the Toyota Center on Saturday to face off against the 15-22 Minnesota Timberwolves. Tip-off is at 4 P.M. CT.