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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets take 1-0 series lead with 123-108 win over OKC
Posted: August 18, 2020 -- 10:17 p.m. CT
ORLANDO, FL (ESPN Disney World of Sports Complex) -- The Houston Rockets used very good defense and balanced offense to cruise to a 123-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night in Game 1 of their first round playoff series match-up.
James Harden scored 37 points -- 22 in the second half. Jeff Green scored 22 points; Eric Gordon scored 21; Ben McLemore scored 14 and P.J. Tucker scored 11.
The Rockets had great ball movement for much of the game which contributed to 25 assists on 43 baskets. Seven different Rockets had at least two assists. Danuel House Jr. led Houston with 5 dimes.
"Our ball movement tonight was excellent," Harden said after the game. "I think we had a lot of open shot opportunities that we missed that were really good shots."
Harden added, "We did a really good job of not turning the basketball over which would have gave them opportunities to get out in transition."
Houston had 7 turnovers in the ball game. OKC scored 6 points off those turnovers. However, Houston scored 19 points off OKC's 13 turnovers.
The Rockets scored 123 points without Russell Westbrook. Westbrook did not play due to an injured quadriceps muscle.
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"We're not sure when Russ is going to be back," Harden acknowledged. "So, it's an opportunity for guys to step up and play big minutes and contribute to big time games. Obviously, Eric and Jeff played really well tonight. P.J. played well on both ends. It was a total team effort."
Houston led OKC 28-20 after the 1st quarter. OKC shot 6 for 20 from the floor in the opening quarter.
Danuel House Jr. scored 5 points during a 9-0 Houston blitz to begin the second quarter which increased Houston's lead to 37-20. Houston's lead ballooned to as much as 21 (58-37) before taking a 68-52 lead into halftime.
Harden scored 15 points in the opening half; but, he only made 4 of his 12 field goal attempts. Eric Gordon scored 16 points in the first half to lead the Rockets. OKC's Danilo Gallinari scored a game-high 18 points in the half.
OKC inched within 78-68; however, Harden led a 20-10 burst with 4 for 4 field goal shooting including 3 triples. Houston led 98-78 with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter. Gordon and Green each drained a triple to close out the quarter.
Houston led 104-83 after three quarters.
The Rockets missed six straight field goal attempts to begin the fourth quarter. Jeff Green's driving layup ended the drought. Houston led 106-87 after Green's layup.
Houston led 112-92 when OKC went on a 10-3 run to get within 13 points. Former Rockets guard Chris Paul scored 8 of the 10 points. Harden scored a driving layup to end Houston's scoreless spell. Houston cruised to the 15 point victory.
Houston made 20 of 52 three-point shots compared to OKC's 13 for 35 from three. The Rockets also outscored the Thunder 44-38 in the paint and 13-2 in fast break points.
"We're a good enough team, whenever we're shorthanded, we still gotta find ways to win games," Gordon said after the game. "Defensively, really helped us tonight."
"We were good tonight," Mike D'Antoni said matter-of-fact after the game. "But, it's a long series. They'll make their adjustments. We just got to be ready to play with the same intensity all the way through. But, tonight was a good night; and, we'll start from zero on Thursday night."
Game 2 of the series is Thursday, August 20, at 2:30 p.m. Central Time.
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