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Rockets 112, Thunder 101



HOUSTON – Guard James Harden flirted with a triple-double as the Houston Rockets rode the wave of a blistering first quarter to a 112-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night at Toyota Center.

Harden totaled 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds as the Rockets (28-12) placed all five starters plus reserve forward Josh Smith (13 points, seven rebounds) in double figures.

Forwards Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas added 17 and 14 points respectively while center Dwight Howard and guard Patrick Beverley scored 13 apiece. Howard added eight rebounds.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook drilled a jumper with 11:20 left that pulled Oklahoma City (18-20) to within 88-78. The Rockets responded with a 12-0 run capped by a Motiejunas 3-pointer to snuff the Thunder for good.

Westbrook finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists plus five steals. Forward Kevin Durant recorded team highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds while reserve guard Reggie Jackson added 16.

Despite having enjoyed a five-day layoff since their last game on Jan. 9, the Thunder were sluggish out of the blocks.

Harden keyed a 16-0 run with a pair of 3-pointers and an assist on a Howard dunk at the 7:24 mark that built the Houston lead to 16-4. The Rockets pushed that advantage to 31-14 on steal and transition dunk by Ariza and led by 22 at the close of their scorching, 40-point first quarter.

Harden poured in 15 points on 4-for-5 shooting in the period, but once he sat in the second quarter the Thunder worked back into contention.

Durant, who tallied just one point and missed both of his attempts in the first quarter, came alive with the deficit at 40-25. The Thunder reeled off a 16-5 run that included a three-point play from center Kendrick Perkins, two Durant 3-pointers and transition dunks from Durant and Jackson. After slicing the deficit to 10 points, the Thunder remained in contention until the Rockets reclaimed a 20-point lead in the fourth.

NOTES: Despite battling a bruised left knee, Rockets G Patrick Beverley made his 20th consecutive start. … Rockets G Jason Terry returned to the rotation after getting Wednesday night off in Orlando for rest. … Against the Magic, the Rockets recorded at least 20 turnovers for the 10th time this season and fell to 6-4 in such contests. … The Thunder used the five days off between games to focus on competing collectively, something they were unable to do given their early-season injuries and rotation juggling. Included in that goal was the acclimation of G Dion Waiters, acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5. Waiters played just two games with the Thunder before the scheduling quirk.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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