Defense carries Thunder past Rockets

Wed Mar 23, 2016 12:44am EDT
 
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(The Sports Xchange) - Playing championship-caliber defense has not been a part of Oklahoma City's resume this season. Despite having the third-best record in the Western Conference, they have suffered through more fourth-quarter defensive breakdowns than almost any other team in the NBA.

But Tuesday, with the Houston Rockets in town, the Thunder had one stretch of defensive basketball that could be called championship level and it led them to a 111-107 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"I think we did a tremendous job as a team," Oklahoma City's Dion Waiters said. "As a team we really locked in and we made it tough on them."

Kevin Durant scored 23 points and Russell Westbrook collected his 15th triple-double of the season for Oklahoma City. Durant, who shot 8-for-19 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out four assists. Westbrook tallied 21 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds for his third straight triple-double and sixth in past nine games.

Oklahoma City (49-22) earned its fifth win in a row. Oklahoma City is undefeated this year when Westbrook has a triple double.

"I am just trying to find the right way to play," Westbrook said. "A lot of those games are big games for us. I just play my game. The game will tell you what to do."

James Harden paced the Rockets with 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting, and he added 16 assists. Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley each scored 16 for Houston (35-36). Howard finished with a team-high 13 rebounds.

Harden was a game-time decision on whether he would play or not. But the league's second-leading scorer said he had to play, regardless of any pain he might be in.

"I had to be out there," Harden said. "For us every game counts. I had to put my individual, whatever I've got going on, to the side, and just try and go out there and get the win."   Continued...

 
Mar 22, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Houston Rockets forward Clint Capela (15) shoots the ball over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports