Any Rockets-Thunder game is going to have that extra dash of je ne sais quoi, what with that whole James Harden thing, plus the long-standing Beverley-Westbrook animosity. What it didn’t have was a whole lot of drama: Houston took command fairly early and gradually pulled away as time wore: 55-49 at the half, 86-77 after three, and double digits in the fourth. The Thunder fought back, wearing that lead down to one (96-95) inside the three-minute mark. At 0:16 it was still a one-point game, 100-99. Patrick Beverley harrassed Russell Westbrook enough to force a turnover; Trevor Ariza was fouled, delivered two free throws, and the last OKC possession ended in an airball. Houston 102, Oklahoma City 99, evening the season series at 1-1, with two games yet to play down in H-town.
Thunder shooting, it seemed, consisted of missed threes (they went 7-28) and point-blank shots that simply refused to go. Westbrook, despite yet another triple-double (27-10-10), shot an improbably horrid 8-25. Meanwhile, Steven Adams was 8-9 for 24 points, a career high, with 10 rebounds. And come to think of it, Harden came pretty close to logging a triple-double for Houston, with 24 points, nine boards and 10 assists. The stat that most sears the eyeballs, though, is bench output: the Rocket reserves put up 44 points, versus 24 for OKC, which explains as well as anything else why the Thunder fell behind in the second quarter and stayed there. And yeah, Beverley gave the ball the old heave-ho at the buzzer, not because he expected to collect three points from 60 feet out, but because (I’m guessing) he thought it would annoy Westbrook.
The Celtics will be here Sunday, as defensive-minded as the Rockets are shot-happy, and probably just as hard to beat. We shall see.