Notebook: Thunder 124, Rockets 94

Posted Dec 29, 2012 11:28 PM

By Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: The Oklahoma City Thunder did not have to be at their best for most of Saturday's victory over the Houston Rockets. All that mattered was how well it played at the conclusion of quarters.

Russell Westbrook finished with 28 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, and Kevin Durant scored 26 points as the Thunder roughed up Houston 124-94 on Saturday at Toyota Center. Former Rocket Kevin Martin added 19 points, including five 3-pointers, for Oklahoma City (23-6), which snapped a two-game skid on the road while earning its 14th victory in its last 16 games.

Marcus Morris paced Houston (16-14), which lost at home for the first time in five games, with a career-high 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting and six boards. James Harden chipped in 25 points but delivered another dismal shooting performance (6-for-17) against his former team.

QUOTABLE: "We know that [Houston] has been playing very, very well as of late, and they were scoring a lot of points. ... We just wanted to get back on defense, take good shots and not turn the ball over. I think our point guard did a really good job of setting the tone."
-- Kevin Durant

THE STAT: The Thunder rocked the Rockets at the end of the first and second quarters, finishing those periods on 12-2 and 16-0 runs, respectively.

TURNING POINT: The Rockets did an impressive job of containing Durant for nearly a half, but the superstar forward began to impose his will over the final 3:30 of the second quarter. Durant scored seven consecutive points and stole the ball once to jump start a 16-0 Thunder run to close the first half. Houston never recovered.

QUOTABLE II: "[We were] careless with the ball. I don't know how to explain everything, but we at least got to get a shot up and not turn the ball over."
-- James Harden

HOT: Westbrook, who reached 27 points for the third time in his last five outings, drained at least half of his shots from the field for only the second time this month. The fifth-year floor general has averaged 24.4 points, 8.2 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 steals over the last five games.

GOOD MOVE: After allowing Houston to rack up 20 points in the paint during the first period, Oklahoma City's defense became more committed to sagging toward the rim and forcing the Rockets to beat it with outside shots. That adjustment worked wonders, as Houston mustered only 16 points in the paint over the next two quarters.

QUOTABLE III: "I thought our bigs did a good job. ... I thought they all did a good job of protecting the basket and not giving them easy points in transition, because [Houston is] one of the best in the league at doing it."
-- Thunder coach Scott Brooks

NOT: Houston's starting backcourt of Harden and Jeremy Lin combined for eight turnovers and connected on only 9-for-25 (36.0 percent), including a 2-for-10 (20.0 percent) effort from behind the arc.

BAD MOVE: For the second time in two meetings with his former team, Harden was guilty of pressing. The fourth-year guard failed to display the same trust in his teammates that he appeared to be developing over the last couple of weeks, choosing to drive into multiple defenders and attempt deep jump shots more often than usual.

NOTABLE: Durant and Kendrick Perkins wore shoes that had "Ryder Rozier" and "12-15-12" written on them in honor of a Guthrie-area child who was fatally shot on accident two weeks ago. ... Houston's Patrick Patterson returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a bone bruise in his right foot, recording two boards and missing all five of his shot attempts in 10-plus minutes off the bench. Coach Kevin McHale said Marcus Morris will continue to start until Patterson's conditioning is well enough for the third-year forward to increase his playing time. ... Rockets reserve forward Carlos Delfino (food poisoning) sat out for the second game in a row. ... During the game, Houston announced that rookie Royce White will be sent to the franchise's Developmental League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. White has not participated in an NBA or D-League contest in his brief career. ... The Thunder set a season high for points scored, surpassing the 120 it posted in a November 28 home win over Houston. ... Oklahoma City improved to 15-1 this season when Martin nets at least 16 points and 12-3 when Westbrook and Durant each score at least 20. ... The Thunder, which collected a season-high 16 steals, is now 11-1 when it records at least 10 steals. ... Houston has allowed at least 68 points during the first half of each of its last two games. ... The Rockets fell to 1-7 this season when they make fewer 3-pointers than their opponent. ... Houston had won its previous four home contests by an average of 16.2 points.

UP NEXT: For the Thunder, Monday vs. Phoenix, Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, Friday vs. Philadelphia. For the Rockets, Monday vs. Atlanta, Wednesday vs. New Orleans, Friday @ Milwaukee.