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Durant scores 42 as Thunder hold off Rockets

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder needed a spark. Riding a two-game losing streak in which the defense allowed more than 100 points each time, Oklahoma City was playing poorly at the wrong time of the season.

Enter the Houston Rockets, whom the Thunder knocked out of the postseason last year. The flashpoint of that series was Houston guard Patrick Beverley causing Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook to get hurt and miss the rest of the postseason.

Looking to become the Thunder’s new rival, the Rockets came in Tuesday with an attitude and confidence.

However, it was Oklahoma City that got the same old result, defeating Houston 106-98 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was the Thunder’s ninth win in past 12 matchups between the two teams.

“We just play,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who scored 42 points. “I don’t think they’re chippy. They’re not a dirty team. They just play hard, and so do we. But we know how to control that, I guess. We just go out there and play for each other. Our crowd was great tonight, and we just feed off that.”

After the Rockets trailed by 18 at one point, guard James Harden led Houston on a run to cut the deficit to five points with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter. However, Durant hit back-to-back jumpers to push advantage back to 10 points.

With 2:55 remaining, Rockets center Dwight Howard trimmed the Thunder’s lead to eight. After Westbrook missed on the other end, Harden drained a 3-pointer in guard Derek Fisher’s face. Oklahoma City’s lead was back down to five.

Durant was fouled, and he hit two free throws before Rockets guard Francisco Garcia answered with a layup in traffic.

Beverley fouled Westbrook on a 3-point attempt, and Westbrook hit all three free throws to give Oklahoma City a 102-94 advantage with 1:31 left. The Rockets disagreed with the call.

After two Harden free throws, Durant once again shook himself open for a dagger jumper to put the game away.

“Every game from here on out is going to be a playoff atmosphere,” Harden said. “So every game is going to be emotional, and we have to do a great job of fighting through it and not getting sidetracked.”

Harden paced the Rockets (44-20) with 28 points on 9-for-21 shooting from the field. Houston forward Chandler Parsons added 19 points. Howard was held to nine points and 10 rebounds.

Durant recorded his 11th 40-point game of the season. Westbrook scored 24 points to go with seven assists and four steals. Forward Serge Ibaka had a game-high 16 rebounds, four blocked shots and 12 points for the Thunder (47-17).

“The energy and effort was good,” Westbrook said. “Locking in for four quarters. My whole objective was to win the game.”

It didn’t take long for the fireworks to break out between Westbrook and Beverley. Six minutes into the contest, the two got tangled up in front of the Thunder bench. The altercation led to a few shoves before Beverley was issued a technical foul.

“I don’t hear anybody,” Beverley said. “I don’t hear anything when I’m on the court. I’m in character, I’m in my zone. I just see what’s going on (on) the court. I really don’t hear what’s going on outside of it t.”

Less than a minute late, the two wrestled for a loose ball at center court. Beverley was called for a foul, but his energy and fight set the tone for the rest of the night. That included Durant and good friend Harden exchanging words midway through the second period.

“Beverley should be aggressive,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “It’s a game that when you’re aggressive, good things happen. That’s why you have referees.”

NOTES: Even though Houston G Patrick Beverley ended Oklahoma City G Russell Westbrook’s season last year during the playoffs, the Thunder star was not interested in talking about Beverley before Tuesday night’s game. After telling the media he had nothing against Beverley, he was asked another question. “What did I just say? That’s it,” Westbrook said. “No more questions about that.” … Rockets coach Kevin McHale said the team’s recent success is due to improved health. “We’ve had a weird year,” McHale said. “We had one guy hurt and another guy go out. It was a whole slew of things. So it’s better having everybody back. And you’re always a better team when you have a full complement of guys.” … Last week, a rapper named Lil B released a song “dissing” Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant. “I don’t know who that is,” Durant said. “I guess he needs attention … whoever that guy is, he needs some help.”

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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