The Thunder offense was in a gear or two higher than that of the Houston offense Sunday night. But credit the OKC defense for a big part of that difference in the Thunder’s 120-91 win over the Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference first round series.
Houston’s defense, on the other hand, didn’t give Rockets’ fans anything to cheer about. There was no answer for either Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant.
OKC went on top by 13 points late in the first quarter, but Houston rallied to get to within seven at the end of the period.
Houston stayed close and tied the score at 40 apiece with just more than five minutes remaining in the first half. The Thunder then outscored the Rockets 20-7 to close out the half up 60-47.
It was smooth sailing for Oklahoma City from that point on.
Westbrook was two rebounds short of a triple-double with 19 points, 10 assists and eight boards he would likely have pulled down those rebounds if he had played in the fourth quarter of what became a blowout.
Durant led all scorers with 24 points and did not miss in nine tries from the free throw line.
Serge Ibaka had a big impact on the game as well scoring 17 points, but his defensive presence was impressive. The Rockets had to work around him in the lane and his three blocked shots forced altered plans for other trips inside.
There were 13 Thunder players that saw time on the court and 11 scored.
James Harden, a.k.a. The Beard, was back in Oklahoma City, but the hoopla of his exploits during last season’s playoff run were not what the raucous home crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena were focused on. Harden was another player in an opponent’s jersey, with maybe a little more intensity in the jeering from the fans when he had the ball.
Harden had a team high 20 points, but got there on only 6 of 19 shooting from the field.
Game 2 will be Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in Oklahoma City. TNT has the national broadcast.