Notebook: Thunder 120, Rockets 98

Posted Nov 29, 2012 12:09 AM

Randy Renner, for

THE FACTS: James Harden's return to Oklahoma City (3-for-16, 17 points, three turnovers) was overshadowed by Daequan Cook's return (7-for-16, 18 points) but together they couldn't counter Kevin Durant who had a game high 37 for the Thunder (12-4) in leading the home team to a 120-98 rout of the Houston Rockets (7-8) who had been in Minneapolis earlier in the day for the funeral of head coach Kevin McHale's daughter.

Durant also had seven rebounds and four assists for the Thunder. Forward Serge Ibaka had 24 points (one short of his career high), nine rebounds and six blocked shots. Kevin Martin who came to the Thunder in the Harden trade added 17. Point guard Russell Westbrook just missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.

Houston was led by forward Patrick Patterson who more than doubled his 13.2 point per game average by dropping 27 on the Thunder on 11-for-18 shooting. Center Omer Asik ended with 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 12 rebounds but was a woeful 1-for-7 at the free throw line. Jeremy Lin finished with six points and eight assists.

The Rockets had a grueling back-to-back, beating Toronto last night in Houston then flying to Minneapolis for the funeral of Sasha McHale. The Rockets seemed tired at times and once the Thunder got a significant lead just couldn't get back into it.

Harden suffered through one of his worst shooting nights (18.8 percent) and was the object of constant pressure, some double-teams and an aggressive switching Thunder defense.

QUOTABLE: "I have a lot of respect for the Houston Rockets and what they went through today. It was a very classy move for them to be there (at the funeral). As to the game I thought our defense was good except for a stretch in the third quarter where we traded baskets. I liked our aggression. I wouldn't say we did anything special against James we just executed. He saw bodies, he saw hands, I thought on defense we were solid."
--Thunder head coach Scott Brooks

QUOTABLE II: "We've had a tough 24-hour stretch but give Oklahoma City credit and I thought James was pressing a little bit. I'm not sure he would admit that but just looking at him play, he's played really well lately but tonight he was pressing."
-- Rockets acting coach Kelvin Sampson

THE STAT: The Thunder won by 22 and outscored Houston by 10 points in the second and fourth quarters to provide most of that margin. OKC held the Rockets to 38.9 percent shooting in the second and just 33.3 percent in the fourth. The Thunder meanwhile shot 60 percent in the second quarter and 56.5 percent in the fourth.

TURNING POINT: The Thunder used a big second quarter run (28-11) to jump out in front by 18 points. The Rockets kept trying to reel the Thunder back in but never could get the game back into single digits. Oklahoma City got the lead back to 18 in the closing minutes and both coaches pulled their starters.

QUOTABLE III: "I really wanted to win this game, especially for all those times in practice that James and Daequan and the rest of the second team beat all of us on the first team."
--Thunder forward Kevin Durant

QUOTABLE IV: "Everyday in practice we would go to war. I know what each and every one of those guys do and do well and vice versa. It's just I couldn't guard all five of them. It feels good to compete against these guys and finally get it over with. Now I can continue on with the season."
-- Rockets guard Harden

HOT: Martin started the game 3-for-5 (eight points)...Durant was 5-for-7 (15 points) in the first 18 minutes and finished 13-for-22...Ibaka was 6-for-8 (12 points) and five blocks in the first half and finished 11-for-13...Asik was 6-for-8 (12 points) in the first half...and finished 11-for-18...

NOT: Harden started the game 0-for-8 with two turnovers and that's how he finished the first half. He finished the game 3-for-16. The Rockets were 8-for-15 (53.3 percent) on free throws in the first half and finished 18-for-30 (60 percent).

INSIDE THE ARENA: OKC's 77th straight sellout crowd gave Harden a loud ovation when he was introduced with the Rockets starting lineup. They cheered for Cook too who was also traded to Houston in the same deal and started in place of Chandler Parsons who is out with a sore shoulder. The only boos were reserved for Rockets coach Sampson. Sampson is a former head coach at the University of Oklahoma and got the school on probation for recruiting violations. After the introductions though, things changed. Harden was booed every time he stepped to the free-throw line.

GOOD MOVE: Despite what players said before the game this clearly wasn't 'just another game' for the Thunder. Oklahoma City came out with a lot of intensity of defense and constantly harassed Harden. He was shown several different looks and defenders switched up on him on almost every possession.

BAD MOVE: Thunder backup center Hasheem Thabeet got into an argument with Harden on the court and when lead official Marc Davis came up behind Thabeet the 7-3 center, not realizing it was Davis, tried to push him out of the way. Davis immediately ejected Thabeet who tried to apologize. While Thabeet trudged to the Thunder locker room Davis looked at the replay monitor and decided to bring Thabeet back into the game and assessed just a technical foul.

NOTABLE: After the final buzzer the former teammates exchanged long hugs. Harden, Cook and Cole Aldrich with their former teammates and coaches with the Thunder and Martin with his on the Rockets. Harden and Westbrook had an extended conversation with a lot of smiles and laughter and Harden and Brooks spoke at length as well.

QUOTABLE V: "James is a great player, I really like him and he's gonna be a friend for life."
-- Brooks

UP NEXT: For the Rockets, Saturday vs. Utah, Tuesday vs. LA Lakers, Friday @ San Antonio. For the Thunder, Friday vs. Utah, Saturday @ New Orleans, Tuesday @ Brooklyn.