The first-quarter score was alarming enough: Houston 29, Oklahoma City 13. That couldn’t stand for long, and it didn’t; it was 44-43 Rockets at the half, and the lead see-sawed most of the rest of the way. Four technicals were assessed. (Yes, Kendrick Perkins got one of them.) With 60 seconds left, the Thunder were up by one; with 24 seconds left, Kevin Martin sank two free throws to give Houston a one-point edge, and the Thunder came up empty on three (!) possessions. With 0.8 second left, Goran Dragić went to the line, sent up a pair of bricks, and that was it: Houston 96, OKC 95.
Telltale statistic: Royal Ivey, inserted into the lineup twice for a total of ten minutes, took no shots, committed one foul and reeled in one rebound. He was +10 for the night. In fact, all the OKC bench was on the positive side of the ledger, a place you’d find none of the starters even Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 33.
Samuel Dalembert, meanwhile, seems to be blossoming in Houston: he scored only once, but he bagged 12 boards and blocked three shots. And the four other Rocket starters were in double figures Martin’s last-minute freebies gave him 32 though Houston, at 42.5 percent, didn’t shoot all that well. (OKC was hardly better, at 43.4, though the Thunder were plus-four on the glass.)
On the plane home, Scott Brooks will probably say “turnover” at least 21 times, one for each Thunder giveaway. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he made everyone run laps.
The Warriors will come to the ‘Peake Friday night, followed by the Nuggets on Sunday. Neither can be expected to lie down and die.