It was pretty easy to read Kevin Durant’s lips as he hugged James Harden postgame.
“It’s just a game, man.”
One game, yes. But a second blowout Harden has suffered at the hands of his old mates. After getting blasted by 22 in his return to Oklahoma City, Harden’s Rockets fell hard at home to the Thunder by 30 this time around, 124-94.
The Thunder can be just plain relentless. The game started with a frantic pace that seemed to favor the Rockets, but eventually, OKC’s talent and depth just wore Houston down. The Thunder closed the first half on a 16-0 run to take an 18-point edge to halftime and didn’t take their foot off the pedal after the break.
Kevin Durant, who started the game painfully, hitting just one of his first eight attempts, got things rolling in the second quarter hitting seven of his last 10 shots. Russell Westbrook had the pull-up game working early, pouring in jumpers and slashing to the rim. Kevin Martin was an immediate spark off the bench in his return to the Toyota Center, scoring 19 which included 5-of-8 from 3.
It was a completely dominant performance. The Thunder straight swarmed the Rockets in the third quarter blocking shots and swiping passes everywhere. It was a bumrush.
Now, the Rockets have the excuse that they were coming off a high-paced loss against the Spurs the night before. So they might’ve had some heavy legs. That’s probably part of this, but it was pretty clear that they just couldn’t keep up with OKC’s firepower. Once Durant joined Martin and Westbrook scoring at will, the Rockets had zero chance. When the Thunder’s three-headed monster is rolling, there’s not much you can do. You’re talking about three of the most gifted offensive players in the world all feeling it. When you’re not a good defensive team to start with like the Rockets, you’re completely screwed.
And the Rockets just couldn’t keep up. Like the first meeting, Harden looked frustrated, overwhelmed and unlike himself. He went just 6-17 from the field with four turnovers (though he finished with 25 points). Jeremy Lin was terrible again going against Westbrook as he couldn’t stop him and scored only seven points on 3-8 shooting.
In the two meetings, which again, the Thunder have won by a combined 52 points, Lin and Harden have gone 15-48 from the floor with Harden being just 9-33. Part of that might be the Thunder understanding his game. Part of it is Thabo Sefolosha’s suffocating defense. And part of it is probably Harden trying a little too hard.
Whatever it was, the Thunder were ultra impressive. To go on the road and completely steamroll a solid team like the Rockets is nothing but outstanding. I think we’re past the message-sending stuff about Harden, but he’s an opposing star that the Thunder have to deal with in the West now.
And OKC definitely has his number.
- I don’t know if Perk was extra motivated, but he definitely seemed to have a little extra pep in his step tonight. He finished with seven rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes and was a legitimate difference maker. Omer Asik, who has been a big part of Houston’s pick-and-roll game, was non-existent.
- Per ESPN Stats and Info: “The Thunder-Rockets game tonight featured 114 possessions, the fastest regulation game in the NBA in the last 5 seasons.” Wow.
- Memo to Harden: Don’t try to Eurostep KD. He knows it’s coming, and can time it perfectly.
- Westbrook was having a really nice shooting night, and yet, his percentage numbers are average. Why? Because he can’t help but take questionable shots, especially so when he’s feeling it. He finished 11-of-22, but really, that should’ve been more like 9-16 probably. He played a great game, don’t get me wrong, and I’m all over the record saying I can live with the iffy shots. But he’s going to have a hard time maintaining a good shooting percentage with some of those attempts.
- It’s pretty annoying that I feel like I can’t mention anything about Harden without there being some assumption that I’m a “hater” or that I’m bitter. Look, he’s a player on another team now. The best one, in fact. You kind of have to talk about him.
- Plus/minus in the box score was messed up all night. For a while, Perk was a +38. I wanted to print that off and frame it. But then again, it had Nick Collison a -29 at one point. You’re dead to me plus/minus.
- Thabo finished a +39. I can’t tell if that’s real or not.
- Nick Collison finished with a double-double, 12 points and 10 rebounds. Look for a video tomorrow of every points and every rebound.
- Reggie Jackson was smooth and very impressive. He just has that little extra something that Eric Maynor does not (right now, at least). As his confidence grows, I think he could be an extremely dynamic bench option. I’m kind of getting excited about him.
- Harden would be an extremely average
playerscorer if he wasn’t able to get to the free throw line at the rate he does. I’m not bitter, I’m not hating. But as a featured offensive player, he gets sucked into taking contested jumpers, and he’s not a very good jumpshooter. So much of his game depends on slashing and when he doesn’t finish, he gets to the line. It’s what makes him special.
- Per Darnell Mayberry, Kevin Martin was booed lightly when he checked in for the first time and for his first few touches. Why? Who knows, but that’s plain silly, Rockets fans.
- The Rockets had 24 turnovers tonight. And they shot 39.8 percent from the floor. That’s a bad offensive night.
- Perk is worth the $8 million a year just for the times you can hear his trash talk on the mic under the rim. OK, I don’t really mean that, but the mic pops tonight from Perk were awesome. Related: Perk was really working over Cole Aldrich in the trash talk department. I honestly kind of felt bad for Aldrich as he stood there helplessly taking it.
- OKC’s 68 first half points were a season high. Also, this was OKC’s biggest road win since 2009 when the Thunder beat the Clippers by 41 in 2009.
- Thabo with 15 points. That’s his seventh double-figure game this season. Per @ThunderStats, he had six all of last season.
- The Rockets are either extremely lazy defensively, or their gameplan is to not try and stop dribble penetration at all, for some reason. Or maybe they were tired. But either way, their effort was really poor.
- KD had “RIP Silent” written on his shoes tonight for DC hoops star Jamar Board, aka Silent Assassin who passed away.
- Very strange thing for the Rockets to put on the jumbotron. And then they put this one up. Troll hard, Rockets scoreboard operator guy.
- I continue to be amazed at how many point blank shots Westbrook misses. And no Russ, just because you missed one point blank doesn’t mean you were fouled.
- Harden made his first basket roughly 25 minutes quicker this time around than he did the last time he played OKC.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Asking a seven-footer to catch a pass at his shoelaces is like asking an elephant to look good in a tutu.”
Next up: Monday at home against the Suns.