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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets lose 26 point first half lead and lose 117-112 to OKC Thunder
Posted: February 10, 2019 -- 6:59 a.m.
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-112 Saturday night. Losing to the Thunder isn't bad; but, blowing a 26-point lead is bad.
Houston (32-23) led OKC (36-19) 68-42 with 98 seconds left in the first half and 70-48 at halftime. However, a disastrous third quarter ended tied at 90. The Thunder shot 71.4% (17 for 21) in the third period, including 7 of 12 three-point shots, en route to scoring 42 points in the third period. Meanwhile, the Rockets made only 6 out of 18 field goals (33.3%) and committed 6 turnovers.
"Third quarter offensively, defensively, we just couldn't get anything right," James Harden said after the game.
Chris Paul added, "We couldn't get stops. They were getting everything, layups. What did we give up? 42 points in the third, something like that. We weren't getting stops. (Dennis) Schröder. George (Paul George) got hot and that is just a bad third quarter for us."
Schröder and George each scored 13 points in the third quarter while Terrance Ferguson scored 11.
OKC led 98-92 in the fourth quarter before the Rockets scored 11 in a row to lead 103-98 with 6:51 remaining. Jerami Grant tied the game at 103 with a jumper in the post. OKC scored the next five points to lead 108-103; but, Harden and Paul combined for 7 consecutive points for a 110-108 Rockets' lead with 2:04 on the game clock.
After a turnover by Russell Westbrook, Paul missed a 9-foot floater; and, Westbrook was fouled. Westbrook split two free throws. Harden missed a contested three-point shot; then, Paul George cut to the basket and was fouled sending George to the free throw line. George made both foul shots which put the Thunder ahead 111-110 with 52.2 seconds remaining.
Instead of calling timeout, Harden dribbled up the court then, after a few seconds, drove past Westbrook and lofted a 7-foot floater for two for a 112-111 Rockets' lead.
The Thunder called timeout with 31.8 seconds remaining. After the timeout, Westbrook took advantage of a breakdown of Rockets' defense and scored a driving layup in mere seconds. The lay-up was Westbrook's first basket of the fourth quarter. He missed his first six field goal attempts in the fourth.
On Houston's next possession, Harden missed a tough three-point shot attempt at the top of the key and George rebounded the miss and was fouled. George made both foul shots. Houston called timeout trailing 115-112 with 3.4 seconds left.
Newest Rocket, Iman Shumpert, attempted an inbound pass to Gerald Green; however, OKC big man Steven Adams deflected Shumpert's pass and, before the ball landed out of bounds, Green, instinctively, reached for the ball; touched the ball; but, he was unable to catch the ball before the ball went out of bounds. As a result, Houston did not get off a shot attempt to tie the game.
George made two foul shots to ice the game and finish with a game-high 45 points.
With the win tonight, the Thunder takes a 2-1 lead in the season series over the Rockets with one game remaining at Oklahoma City on 4/9. Oklahoma City has won two of its past three games in Houston after losing the previous six.
"I know it's a tough one tonight," said Mike D'Antoni. "We'll bounce back on Monday and see what we can do."
James Harden scored 42 points tonight. Harden has now scored 30 or more points in each of the past 29 games, which is the third-longest streak in NBA history. Harden has scored 40 or more points in 15 of the past 23 games and 21 times overall this season. He has more 40-point games than the next three highest ranked players do combined (19). Tonight is just the second time over the past 29 games that Harden didn't lead the Rockets and their opponent in scoring (2/1 at Denver; Harden w/30 points; Malik Beasley w/35). Tonight marked the 70th time Harden has scored 40 or more points in his career (69 times as a Rocket; once with the Thunder). According to ESPN Stats & Info, it is the first time Harden was outscored by an opposing player when scoring 40 or more points.
Russell Westbrook had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists tonight, marking his ninth straight triple-double, tying Wilt Chamberlain for the longest streak in NBA history.
The Rockets' next game is Monday, February 11, versus the Dallas Mavericks. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
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