The difference between Chris Paul and Eric Gordon? Gordon’s not an adept actor, but he’s a reliable playmaker, and if you can’t have CP3, as the Rockets couldn’t tonight, Gordon fills the bill quite admirably. And it’s not like the Rockets were suffering greatly: okay, they dropped two in a row, but who hasn’t this year? (Besides them, I mean.) It’s a Christmas game, the sort of special occasion where the Thunder have excelled over the last decade, and things happen on holidays. Mike D’Antoni, just for the heck of it, decided to foul Andre Roberson as often as possible. Was this the right idea? Well, Dre made the first shot, missed two more, and made the fourth. D’Antoni backed off after that. A minute and a half out, the Thunder were up three; James Harden was nicely positioned for a trey to tie it up, and Roberson swatted it away; Russell Westbrook retrieved it, tossed it back to Dre, who obligingly dropped it into the bucket, and the Rockets put up no further resistance. OKC 112, Houston 107, and the only starter who missed double figures — Roberson finished with eight — proved to be the most valuable player for the night.
Houston wasn’t short of offense: Gordon finished with 20, as did Trevor Ariza, and Harden, still the leading scorer in the NBA, finished two boards short of a triple-double, with 29-8-14. Clint Capela, who had the highest field-goal percentage in the league, didn’t jeopardize that standing: he had 19 points (9-14) and 10 rebounds. But tonight, none of that was enough. Westbrook put up 31-6-11. Paul George dropped in 24, Carmelo Anthony 20, and Steven Adams double-doubled up with 15 points/10 rebounds. The Thunder shot a sterling 54 percent and 8-18 from the three-point line. (The Rockets, as they will, put up 37 treys, but only 12 makes. This is called “defense.”)
After that, you gotta like the Thunder’s chances for the rest of December. Coming to town: Wednesday, the Raptors; Friday, the Bucks; Sunday, the Mavericks. Toronto is the toughest of that threesome, so it’s probably a good thing they’re here first.