Houston Rockets (44-19) at Oklahoma City Thunder (46-17), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets are a different team since the last
time they faced the Oklahoma City Thunder and look to exact revenge when the
two Western powers engage in battle Tuesday night.
The Rockets have lost the first two encounters with the Thunder by double
digits and are 4-10 in the last 14 games in this series. They have also lost
six of seven trips to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But Houston's fortunes have turned lately with five straight wins and 15 in
the last 17 tries. The Rockets are an NBA-best 23-6 since Jan. 1 and have not
lost a game in 2014 when scoring 100 or more points.
Houston has hit the century mark in every game during its winning streak and
is third in the NBA with 106.6 ppg. The Rockets have knocked off the likes of
NBA powers Miami, Indiana and Portland in the last five games and needed
overtime to defeat the Trail Blazers 118-113 on Sunday.
James Harden, the Western Conference Player of the Week, scored 20 of his 41
points in the fourth quarter and is averaging 29.8 points in his last 11
games. He is fifth in the league with 24.9 ppg and buried a big 3-pointer to
make it 106-106 late in regulation.
Jeremy Lin netted 26 points off the bench, Dwight Howard had 17 points and 12
rebounds, and Chandler Parsons chipped in 16 points for the Rockets, who
scored 32 points off 21 turnovers and erased a 13-point deficit in the fourth
quarter to force overtime. Houston scored 12 of the 19 points in the extra
stanza for its eighth straight win at home.
"When you win games like this, it gives you the feeling that if you keep
grinding and keep fighting, you can make things happen," said Rockets coach
Kevin McHale. "It gives you a confidence and an ability to stick to what you
do and play hard."
McHale's team will start a rough three-game road trip Tuesday against Oklahoma
City, Chicago and Miami, and is third in the Western Conference, just 2 1/2
games off the top spot.
Oklahoma City has struggled lately with two straight losses and five over the
last eight games. It suffered an embarrassing 114-110 loss to the lowly Los
Angeles Lakers on Sunday and a late-game rally fell short.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with a triple-double of 27 points, 12 assists and
10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points,
eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Serge Ibaka had 21 points and
15 boards for OKC, which squandered an 18-point lead in the first half and
later trailed by that many after a 23-2 run by L.A.
"We have to do a better job of executing on the defensive end of the floor,"
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "We had trouble staying in front of the
basketball tonight. It's something that we have to continue to work on and
build going forward."
Durant, the NBA's leading scorer with 31.7 ppg, has three triple-doubles on
the season and six in his career. He has scored 25 or more points in the last
28 games, a streak that is one game shy of his 29-game run in 2009-10. He is
averaging 35.0 ppg in that stretch.
The Thunder have scored 100 or more points in the last seven games and are
fifth in the NBA with 105.7 ppg. They will try to improve their 26-6 home
record and have won three in a row as the host.
Oklahoma City will play its next three games at home versus Houston, the
Lakers and Dallas, and sits a half-game behind San Antonio for the Western
Tuesday's game is sure to be a high-scoring affair.
03/11 10:23:29 ET
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