The Houston Rockets, through last night, led the NBA in scoring, with an average per game on the far side of 105, and a big part of that offensive effort has been OKC expat James Harden. So it was a good time, evidently, for the Thunder to conduct a defensive clinic. Stare in disbelief at these numbers: fifty-three rebounds. Nine blocks. Sixteen steals. Twenty-four Houston turnovers. And the Beard went 6-17 from the floor, though he proved adept at garnering fouls; eleven of his 24 points were from the foul line. It was a two-point game with four minutes left in the first half, and then the Thunder went berserk, or something: a 16-0 run put them up 68-50, and things just got worse for the Rockets after that. We’re talking a 124-94 blowout, in Houston.
Which is not to say that the Rockets had nothing at all going for them. Second-year power forward Marcus Morris went 9-14 for 24 points, and Toney Douglas paced the bench with 17. (Unfortunately, Douglas’ effort left him -31 for the night.) Houston was held to just under 40 percent shooting, and of their 30 (!) attempted three-pointers, only eight paid off. Chandler Parsons (10 points) was 0-5 from outside. Heck, OKC seemingly tried to give it away we’re talking 21 turnovers here but no dice, son, you’re getting off work early.
Whatever it was that got Russell Westbrook going late in the Dallas game night before last, it was still doing the job tonight: he was 11-22 for 28 points with eight boards and eight dimes. (And, yes, five turnovers. You can’t have everything.) And something powered Thabo Sefolosha (15 points) to +39 for the night, one of the higher +/- figures I’ve seen. Kevin Durant deposited, quietly, 26 points; Kevin Martin added 19, 15 of them on 5-8 from beyond the arc. (The Thunder made 13 of 29, 45 percent; that’s a lot of Ka-Ching! from radio guy Matt Pinto.) And nobody had a double-double except Nick Collison. There’s a first.
New Year’s Eve, the woeful Phoenix Suns will pop into town, followed Wednesday by the Brooklyn Nets, who may or may not be coached by OKC expat P. J. Carlesimo, who assumed the position, so to speak, after Avery Johnson was sent packing.