Notebook: Rockets 122, Thunder 119

Posted Feb 21, 2013 12:20 AM

Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: After saying goodbye to a few of their teammates following a pair of trades, what remained of the Houston Rockets started a new chapter of their season with an improbable comeback victory over the defending Western Conference champions.

James Harden scored 16 of his career-high 46 points in the fourth quarter, and Jeremy Lin finished with 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds as the Rockets overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-119 on Wednesday at Toyota Center. Chandler Parsons added 17 points and six boards for Houston (30-26), which has won five of its last eight games overall and five consecutive home games.

Kevin Durant (16 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) posted his second career triple-double, and Russell Westbrook (28 points, 10 boards, eight assists) nearly recorded one of his own to lead the Thunder (39-15), but the duo combined for 12 of Oklahoma City's 22 turnovers. Thabo Sefolosha exploded for a career-high 28 points on 11-for-16 shooting, but it was not enough to prevent the Thunder from suffering its first three-game regular-season losing streak since April 2-6, 2012.

Less than 30 minutes before tip-off, news broke that the Rockets traded Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas and Patrick Patterson to the Sacramento Kings for rookie Thomas Robinson, Tyler Honeycutt, Francisco Garcia and a future second-round draft pick. Houston also shipped Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns for a future second-round pick Wednesday evening. The Rockets did not know about the deals until approximately 20 minutes before the game began, but it did not keep them from completing the task at hand.

QUOTABLE: "It was definitely the weirdest game I've ever played in. It was just tough. It was hard to focus. It was hard to block out four friends leaving. That's a huge win for us, and I thought we really showed something tonight, fighting through that, staying focused and playing a really good team."
-- Chandler Parsons on the effect the two pregame trades

THE STAT: Oklahoma City failed to lock down Lin and Harden down the stretch, as the Rockets' starting backcourt combined to either score or assist on all 27 of Houston's points during the final seven minutes of regulation.

TURNING POINT: After Sefolosha nailed a 3-pointer with 7:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rockets held the Thunder without a field goal until the final half-minute of regulation. Oklahoma City's offensive struggles shifted to the defense end, because its barrage of bricks allowed Harden and Lin to stretch the floor and create in transition. Houston scored on 11 of 15 possessions during the Thunder's field-goal drought as it put together a 26-6 run that transformed a 107-93 deficit into a 119-113 lead.

QUOTABLE II: "If he is not up for MVP consideration, I mean, I don't know what else he needs to do. ... He made every single big play down the stretch and even the shots that I was able to have, they were created because of him."
-- Jeremy Lin on Harden's late-game heroics

HOT: The Thunder's defensive stopper, Sefolosha, became Oklahoma City's top source of scoring in the third quarter as he poured in 14 points on 6-for-7 (85.7 percent) shooting. Half of those points came during a key 14-6 spurt in which the Thunder extended a 73-72 advantage to 87-78.

NOT: The All-Star break could not help the Rockets' Carlos Delfino snap out of his perimeter shooting slump. Including Wednesday's 3-for-10 effort, the eighth-year wing has connected on only 29.4 percent (10-for-34) of his 3-point attempts over the last five contests.

GOOD MOVE: The Rockets hounded Durant with several defenders and never allowed him to gain a rhythm, which benefitted them greatly when Durant attempted to take over the game in the closing minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward missed his final five shot attempts and committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions, igniting Houston's powerful transition offense.

BAD MOVE: The Thunder has been too reliant upon its offense to carry it to victory when playing away from home lately, allowing at least 100 points in seven of its last 10 road games. Oklahoma City's lackadaisical defensive performances in recent road outings are a major reason why it has posted a mediocre 8-7 record over its last 15 contests. The Thunder, which is 30-2 this season when limiting opponents to less than 100 points, must use the final two months of the regular season to regain its focus defensively in all settings.

QUOTABLE III: "We're not going to win when we give up three quarters of 30-plus points. ... As a team we've given up too many points. ... That's not us. That's not what we pride ourselves on. We have to regroup and figure it out defensively. It hasn't been on our level on the road for a while now, but we have to change that."
-- Thunder coach Scott Brooks on his team's defensive struggles away from home

NOTABLE: Thunder center Kendrick Perkins missed Wednesday's game with a right knee sprain he suffered during Tuesday's practice. ... Rockets forward Chandler Parsons left the game during the third quarter after suffering a sprained right ankle, but he returned in the fourth period and played the final 6:27. ... Oklahoma City lost for only the second time this season (18-2) when at least five players score in double figures and just the third time (15-3) when its bench outscores its opponents' reserves. ... Lin has shot 48.3 percent (56-for-116) from 3-point range over his last 11 games. ... Houston improved to 12-4 this season when it commits fewer turnovers than its opponent. ... The Rockets are 5-2 in games decided by four points or less.

UP NEXT: For the Thunder: Friday vs. Minnesota, Friday vs. Chicago, Wednesday vs. New Orleans. For the Rockets: Friday @ Brooklyn, Saturday @ Washington, Wednesday vs. Milwaukee.