Anybody who studied rocketry as a kid knows this, and if you were wondering if it still meant anything, consider the Houston Rockets’ scoring through three quarters: 32, 41, then 10, 9. The Thunder, down fourteen at the half, managed to tie it up at 83 after three. Steven Adams fouled out in ten minutes, which probably isn’t a record but definitely qualifies as falling to earth; simultaneously with that foul, Dwight Howard drew his fifth, which introduces the question: “Shouldn’t Kendrick Perkins be guarding the Dwightmare?” (Kevin McHale pulled Howard at that point, and the Thunder went small, so the answer was apparently No.) Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Thunder had scored only seven; then again, the Rockets had scored only six.) It was that kind of game: emotional roller-coaster with the occasional mouthful of something you didn’t like the first time. The Thunder ran off seven straight before Houston returned all their starters. They needn’t have bothered. Oklahoma City 104, Houston 92, and once again solid, even fierce, defense compensates for a world of offensive hurt.
Telltale statistic: the Rockets went 12-20 from beyond the arc in the first half; the Thunder were 0-8. Second half: Rockets 0-14, Thunder 6-17. Whatever it is Scott Brooks is handing out at halftime, I want it.
Houston landed six players in double figures, led by Terrence Jones and James Harden with 16 each — though The Beard did not score squat in the second half. Donatas Motiejunas and Aaron Brooks made big numbers for the Rockets’ bench, which outscored the OKC reserves 29-15. Then again, on a night when Serge Ibaka is getting 21 points and 15 boards and five blocks, and Reggie Jackson is getting 23 points on 11-19 shooting and six steals — well, all you need to do is make sure Kevin Durant isn’t late. He wasn’t, knocking down 36, half of them at the foul line. (Semi-telltale statistic: Durant was 18-20 on free throws; Houston in toto was 14-21. And you can’t blame all that on Howard, who went 1-2 on his only trip to the line.)
And now the West invades: the Warriors tomorrow night, the Kings on Sunday, the Blazers on Tuesday. The trick will be not to come down from these giddy heights.