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Whirlwind day for Rockets culminates in Harden's return to OKC
(Sports Network) - The Houston Rockets are set for a whirlwind 24 hours on Wednesday, a day that will begin with them attending the funeral service for head coach Kevin McHale's daughter before traveling to Oklahoma City to take on the 11-4 Thunder.
McHale has been away from the team for the past eight games and on Saturday his daughter, Alexandra "Sasha" McHale, passed away at the age of 23 following a long battle with lupus, an auto-immune disease.
Following Tuesday night's home win over the Toronto Raptors, the Rockets planned to fly to Minnesota for the funeral before heading to Oklahoma City.
"I don't pretend to know what to do there," said assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, who is 4-4 while serving as acting head coach, on preparing for the game.
Sampson said he his club should arrive in Oklahoma City by 3:30 or 4:00 central time.
"As long as we get there by 7 we'll be okay. As far as preparing, I'm just going to play it by ear and figure it out as I go," he said.
The Rockets honored McHale with a 117-101 win over the Raptors. James Harden had 24 points and a career high-tying 12 assists, while Jeremy Lin added 16 points and 10 assists. Patrick Patterson was also solid with 22 points as Houston has won three straight for the first time this season.
"Right now it's an emotional time for the whole team," Lin said. "We're missing our leader. Right now we're just focused on coming out and playing the way we're supposed to play. Hopefully when he is watching, he can be proud of us."
It was already set to be a crazy night for Harden, who makes his return to Oklahoma City after getting traded to Houston on Oct. 27. Harden averaged 16.8 points and 3.7 assists in 62 games last season, making two starts while winning the Sixth Man of the Year award.
However, the third overall pick of the 2009 draft was unable to agree on a contract extension with the Thunder and was dealt to Houston.
"To be honest, I don't even know," Harden said of his feelings on his return to Oklahoma City. "(Wednesday's) going to be a long day, but it will be good to see some faces and old teammates and coaches and my family."
As if the extensive travel wasn't enough for the Rockets, the Thunder are coming off a dominating performance on Monday, setting a franchise record for the largest margin of victory with a 114-69 pounding of the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Thunder led by as many as 54 points in the contest and the 69 points allowed were also a club record.
"Obviously one of the best games we've played on both ends of the floor," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "It was a combination of a few things. We really played good basketball, passing and defending, and they had a bad night."
Kevin Durant had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists in a little over two quarters of action as the starting lineup sat out the majority of the second half. Thabo Sefolosha ended with 14 points and Russell Westbrook had 12 points and 11 assists before exiting Oklahoma City's second straight win and fifth in six games.
The Thunder have won six of their last nine meetings with the Rockets, who halted a four-game road losing streak in this series a season ago.
11/28 10:52:00 ET