Houston came into the ‘Peake with Peak Swagger; not only were they 5-0 on the road, but James Harden was scoring something like a bazillion points a game. And indeed, they dominated the first half of the game, leading 42-33 after two. Then great strangeness manifested itself: the Thunder scored a lousy 18 points in the third quarter — and briefly took the lead. The two free throws Harden sank in the final moments of the third were Houston’s eighth and ninth points of the quarter. Stifling Oklahoma City defense did it: the Thunder had blocked 14 shots in the first 36 minutes. But they couldn’t make any shots on their own, either.
Three minutes into the fourth, there was a bizarre little incident in which Patrick Beverley was trashtalking one of the zebras. Scott Brooks took the opportunity to point this out to the crew; Kevin McHale jumped up because he’s Kevin McHale, and for a moment there, it looked like a hockey game was about to break out. After a lengthy discussion, a tech was called on Sebastian Telfair, which drew a muted “Wow” from radio guy Matt Pinto.
With 78 seconds left, a Harden trey put the Rockets up 68-65; Houston did their best to run some clock, the Thunder managed no further threats — Reggie Jackson sent up a 30-footer over Dwight Howard which went nowhere — and the Beard cashed in one of two free throws for the final four-point difference, 69-65. If that sounds like a high-school score, well, consider: neither side shot over 30 percent; fully 54 treys were attempted tonight, and 44 of them failed; Harden, who scored the last four points in the game, was -2 for the evening. If anyone on earth was thinking “Oh, Mama, I want to see the bricks tonight!” she should have been in downtown OKC.
Harden led all scorers with 19 despite going 5-17 from the floor; Dwight Howard (4-12) and Patrick Beverley (4-10) had 12 each; Trevor Ariza, who drew a tech for some unknown reason, got 11 points from 4-11. Reggie Jackson and Lance Thomas had 15 each for the Thunder, with the Reg hauling in 11 boards; Serge Ibaka had 10; Steven Adams scored one solitary foul shot, though he contributed six blocks to the cause. OKC at least remembered how to do foul shots, making 22 of 28. (The Rockets were 16-30, largely due to Howard, who is to free throws what Shaq was to, well, free throws.)
Seems like a good time to get out of town. So it’s a trip halfway out West, to meet the Jazz on Tuesday and the Nuggets on Wednesday. The Nets will be in OKC Friday night.