It wasn’t always pretty, but it counts in the win column just the same.
The Rockets overcame some fourth-quarter doldrums that were self-inflicted and some horrid calls by the officials down the stretch, and they also got 21 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists from James Harden told hold off the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 102 - 99 victory and their fifth straight win.
Houston also got one heck of a gutsy performance from Patrick Beverley, who finished with only 3 points on 1-8 shooting, but also had 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. In addition, he harassed Russell Westbrook into an 8-25 shooting night, and despite allowing Westbrook his seventh straight triple double, Beverley locked him down into a miss with some nasty defense with under 10 seconds remaining to help seal the Houston win.
Oh, and he also followed it up with a sweet chest bump with Mike D’Antoni, who loved every second of it.
Despite leading for most of the game, the Rockets almost melted down in the fourth quarter. First, they went ice cold, going almost 7 minutes without a field goal. Then the refs decided to get involved, gifting Westbrook at every opportunity, including several imaginary calls against Harden and a jump ball call on Ryan Anderson when Russ barely got a finger on a clean Ryno rebound.
But Houston managed to hang on despite shooting just 3-17 from the field in the final frame thanks to their own timely defense and the next-level effort from Beverley.
The Rockets also got 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 threes from Anderson, despite a 5-15 shooting night overall, 13 points and 6 rebounds from Clint Capela, and also got plenty of contributions off the bench.
Eric Gordon finished with 17 points, Nene had 11 and Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker scored 7 points apiece. The Rockets’ bench outscored the Thunder’s 44-24.
Despite only shooting 39.1 percent from the field and 11-41 from beyond the arc and turning the ball over 15 times in somewhat of a sloppy performance, Houston stepped it up on the defensive end, holding the Thunder to 42 percent shooting and nabbing 17 turnovers. It was their ability to maintain their defensive intensity despite struggling on offense that was the difference in the game for the Rockets.
The Thunder were led by Westbrook’s triple dip, as he finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and they also got a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds from Steven Adams. The Thunder fall to 14-9 and have their six-game win streak squashed, while the Rockets move to 16-7 on the year and into a tie with the Clippers for third place in the Western Conference standings.
The Rockets are finding ways to win even when things don’t go completely their way, and now they return home to play again tomorrow night against the last-place Dallas Mavericks.
Back-to-backs are never easy, but the Rockets have a chance to move 10 games over .500 if they can keep their win streak going on Saturday.