The last two meetings of Rockets/Thunder, OKC spotted Houston a big lead after three quarters and then defensed the living, um, tissue out of them in the fourth. And it looked like the same thing would happen tonight: the Rockets, down five after the first quarter, led 67-56 at the half and 97-83 after three, and sure enough, the Thunder bore down. With 5:30 left, the Rocket lead was down to three. At the 2:30 mark, it was one. Just inside the 2:00 mark, a Victor Oladipo trey put the Thunder up two; James Harden responded with two free throws to tie it up at 116. Then followed a possibly controversial call in which Patrick Beverley wasn’t as out of bounds as he looked. Harden to the rescue, right? Well, he put up a straight-ahead trey, which Andre Roberson waved off in his own inimitable fashion, and with 25 seconds left, Russell Westbrook wound up with the ball and worked some clock. Then Westbrook backrimmed a trey, Beverley retrieved the rock, and Houston burned up the last of its timeouts trying to inbound. Nené went for the dunk; Jerami Grant blocked it, but also fouled him in the process. Nené hit both free throws, and with 0.7 left, the Thunder was definitely in a hole, and burned up the last of their timeouts trying to inbound. Enes Kanter took the last shot from a position we may describe as “unfavorable,” and the Rockets won it, 118-116, taking a 2-1 lead in the season series.
Inexplicably, the Rockets deployed a nearly balanced attack: Harden was good for 26 and 12 assists, but all five Houston starters reached double figures, and so did Eric Gordon, with 22 off the bench. The Thunder had more rebounds, 54-43, but the Rockets moved the ball better: 27-15 on assists. Kanter recorded the Thunder’s only double-double — 15 points, 13 boards — while Westbrook posted a lopsided 49-8-5 line. (King Zero was 16-34 from the line, 8-15 for three-pointers.) If Billy Donovan is looking at anything right now, it’s that gap between Oladipo’s trey, the last points scored by OKC, and the horn.
Next outing: at home, against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.