Rockets silence Thunder to finally take flight

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2015 12:30 AM

(The Sports Xchange) - James Harden shook off his shooting slump while Ty Lawson enjoyed his best performance of the season as the Houston Rockets rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-105 at Toyota Center on Monday.

Harden finished with 37 points on 12-of-26 shooting and made more three-pointers (four) against the Thunder than he did in his first three games combined, with two late misses undermining a solid night.

Lawson, an offseason acquisition from the Denver Nuggets, added 14 points, 11 assists and four steals for Houston (1-3) but a defensive effort that forced 25 turnovers superseded the offensive fireworks in a much-needed first win of the campaign.

"As long as we can stay on the same page defensively," Harden said. "Tonight was about making the extra effort, it was about getting stops, knowing the game plan, knowing who's going to be effective. Making sure we corral those players."

Rockets center Dwight Howard (16 points, eight rebounds, four blocks), maligned for his free-throw shooting, sank two foul shots with 5.7 seconds left to seal the victory.

His surprising accuracy came after Thunder forward Kevin Durant missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game.

"A lot of positives," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We haven't had many positives this year so far, but that's something to build on."

Durant finished with 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting but also had five turnovers.

Guard Russell Westbrook, whose three-pointer with 44.2 seconds left cut the deficit to three, added 25 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists and seven turnovers for Oklahoma City (3-1).

What the Rockets sorely needed -- some positive momentum -- came in the form of foul trouble for Westbrook. With 9:24 remaining in the third quarter, Westbrook picked up his fourth foul and retreated to the bench.

Trailing 71-57, Houston immediately fashioned a rally, limiting the Thunder to just two field goals over the remainder of the period.

The Rockets forced 10 turnovers in the third while simultaneously finding the bottom of the net, with guard Marcus Thornton and Harden drilling consecutive three-pointers after the Rockets scored three successive baskets at the rim to close within 75-71.

While Oklahoma City scratched together four free throws down the stretch the Rockets kept running, finally reclaiming the lead at 80-79 on a bomb from guard Patrick Beverley with 61 seconds left in the third.

"I thought our third quarter was tough," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

"We only scored 13 points in the quarter and didn't really have a great flow offensively. We had some turnovers that allowed them to get on the break. As a group, we probably needed to perform better in the third quarter than we did."

(Editing by John O'Brien)