The depleted Houston Rockets, missing Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks and Chase Budinger — though Budinger was listed as available — managed to hang close for about fifteen minutes, but the Thunder were anxious to show that they can actually win big in the Froze Center, and they won big enough to persuade Scott Brooks to let eleven guys play: for the first time in I don’t know how long, Oklahoma City won four quarters in a row to post a 116-99 win in front of a slightly-less-than-sellout crowd.
In fact, OKC had enough of a lead to give the starters a rest; only Russell Westbrook (21 points, 12 assists) played more than 30 minutes. Serge Ibaka, still starting in place of the injured Jeff Green, wangled 11 points and eight boards, and if Ibaka were bucking for Green’s slot at the four, he’s making a pretty good case for himself. The Thunder hit exactly half their shots and went 5-12 from beyond the arc. Telltale stat: OKC gave up only eight turnovers, apart from the dribble-out, this game. They’ve had quarters this year with more turns than that.
Meanwhile, Houston had the always-scary Luis Scola, who outscored everyone (including Kevin Durant) tonight with 26, hitting 12 of 19. Perhaps the nicest surprise the Rockets got was the continuing development of rookie guard Ish Smith, who tied his career high of 12 points and served up five dimes in 25 minutes. But there really wasn’t a whole lot for Rick Adelman to be happy about.
Up next: a back-to-back on the road, Friday at Boston, Saturday at Milwaukee. In back-to-backs so far, the Thunder have been dropping the first one and winning the second. I suspect this pattern will continue, at least through this weekend.