Maybe the Rockets just weren’t ready to launch. I admit to having been a bit squeamish about this game, what with Russell Westbrook hors de combat for the moment and whatever might be going through James Harden’s head. Turns out, The Beard’s most likely reaction is “WTF?” It took half the first quarter for the Rockets to make a shot, and by then the pattern was set: the Thunder were going to preside over an old-fashioned thrashing. Kendrick Perkins took Dwight Howard out of the picture, Harden managed only eight points on 2-9 shooting, and Jeremy Lamb led the Thunder bench with a career-high 22 points as OKC blew Houston out of the building, 117-86.
Lamb’s achievement was startling: 8-10 from the floor (three of four treys), five assists, five rebounds, two steals. With the wingmen producing at a high level — Reggie Jackson knocked down 16 points, Thabo Sefolosha 13 — and Kevin Durant being Kevin Durant (33 points, 13 rebounds), there wasn’t anything much the Rockets could do. The Thunder shot 57 percent, 45 percent from distance, versus 36 and 25. And there’s even a Telltale Statistic: Jackson had eight assists and no turnovers. Westbrook had to be staring at that.
With the Houston starters stymied, the reserves did their best to keep up: Aaron Brooks wound up with a team-high 17 points, and Omri Casspi added 15. (Only one Rocket starter made double figures: Chandler Parsons, with 15.) Houston did collect eleven offensive rebounds, but, as I’ve mentioned before, this is easier to do when you’re missing shots.
New Year’s Eve is Opening Night in downtown Oklahoma City. Adding to the festivities: a visit by the Portland Trail Blazers, who own a 1-0 season lead over the Thunder. Payback may or may not be imminent; but if the Thunder execute the way they did tonight, the Blazers will be trailing all evening.