It is a measure of the sort of game this was — “chippy,” said radio guy Matt Pinto — that when Dwight Howard was thumbed for his second technical foul, the first thought that came to mind was “Aw, crap, who do we get to foul now?” Howard’s lack of prowess from the stripe is legendary: he was 4-15 tonight. But the man can defend, and without him, the Rockets’ 12-point lead totally evaporated and an endless barrage of three-point shots failed to yield many points. Not that the Thunder minded: they hadn’t beaten the Rockets in almost two years, and when Houston called timeout with 3:25 left, OKC was up by 14 and the Thunder were actively mocking them. Seriously. After old nemesis Patrick Beverley bounced one off the backboard at the shot-clock buzzer, Russell Westbrook gave him a side-eye you would not believe; said Royce Young, “That needs to be GIF’d into eternity.” The Rockets rallied, as the Rockets will, but the Thunder prevailed, 116-108, evening the season series at 1-1 with two to play.
Houston did not help itself with lousy shooting from the floor: 38 percent overall, and nine of 39 (!) treys, 23 percent. James Harden was, of course, James Harden-like when possible; his 33 points came from 8-22 shooting and 15 of 17 free throws, including four of five in the last two minutes. And generally, the Rockets’ defense was at least plausible. But this was a night for the home team: Kevin Durant logged another double-double (33 points, 12 rebounds) and Westbrook picked up yet another triple-double, 26-10-14. What’s more, two other Thunder players had 10 rebounds — Steven Adams and Enes Kanter — and Kanter, who’d scored only two points in the first half, bagged 20 in the second.
There were, of course, too many turnovers, particularly late when that 14-point Thunder lead started to erode. There will be time, though, to discuss that: the Wizards won’t be here until Monday, and the Magic two days afterwards.
Addendum: No GIF yet, but Bleacher Report captured it on Vine.