The game plan for the Rockets today seemed simple enough: put up a hell of a lot of shots, and hope enough of them fall. This is doable if half your rebounds come off the offensive glass, as Houston’s were, and if you get at least 20 more shots than the opponents, as Houston did. It didn’t hurt that the Thunder were at least fairly lethargic during several stretches of the game, and with OKC up five with five and a half minutes left, the Rockets utterly shut down the Thunder to earn a 118-110 win, a 2-2 split of the season series — each team won twice at home — and a bit of momentum as they try to climb above ninth and into the playoff picture.
“A hell of a lot of shots” sounds unspecific, so let’s get the numbers: 41 of 102, just a tick above 40 percent. Thirteen of 42 made treys. Twenty-two offensive rebounds out of 45. The only place where the Thunder got bigger numbers was in, you guessed it, turnovers: 21 for OKC, a mere nine for Houston. James Harden went off for 41 points on 12-25, with Trevor Ariza going 5-13 for 18 points. Patrick Beverley did not shoot well until the fourth quarter, but his +14 was the highest of all.
Kevin Durant shot well until the fourth quarter, when the Rockets ratcheted up the defense. He finished with 33. Russell Westbrook came up just short of a triple-double, at 23-13-9. Nobody else into double digits except Enes Kanter, who managed 16.
The rest of this road trip may or may not be fraught with peril. Denver (Tuesday) is decidedly more dangerous at home; Portland (Wednesday) is dangerous everywhere; Sacramento (Saturday) is, well, Sacramento. (The Kings have beaten the Thunder once already this season.) It’s not likely that the standings will change, though theoretically OKC could fall behind the Clippers if they lose the rest of the way. Then again, if they keep playing like they did in the fourth quarter — but never mind, let’s not go there.