Westbrook leads Thunder over Rockets
OKLAHOMA CITY — After making a play in the final seconds to seal a 112-107 win for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook took a bow and yelled, “Merry Christmas” to the crowd Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Things are feeling pretty festive for the Thunder after they won a season-best fifth consecutive game, this one against the team that began the day in the top spot in the Western Conference.
Westbrook was one of many reasons for the win, going 8 of 10 from the field in the second half to finish with 31 points.
And it was Westbrook that made the game-sealing play, first leaping to grab a rebound off James Harden’s potential game-tying 3-pointer with 28 seconds left fell well short. When Harden jumped up to deflect Westbrook’s outlet pass, the Thunder star once again wrangled the ball, quickly dribbled around a defender and then found Andre Roberson under the basket for a reverse layup that put the game away.
Westbrook got plenty of help from Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The trio combined to shoot 28 of 51. George added 24 points while Anthony scored 20.
The Thunder spent much of the first part of the season floundering as the trio struggled to find much offensive cohesion.
But they’ve come together lately and improved to 19-15 with the win to kick off a four-game homestand.
“Every night, teams guard us differently,” Westbrook said. “Once we figure that out and see how teams are guarding us (we’ll) find ways to make the game easier for them, and that’s my job.”
Harden, who had scored 50-plus points in consecutive games, finished with 29. He was 7 of 18 from the floor including 3 of 11 from behind the 3-point line. Harden also had 14 assists.
“We had several chances, we just couldn’t convert and we couldn’t get stops when we needed to,” Harden said.
Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon scored 20 for Houston (25-7).
Neither Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni or Harden were discouraged after the loss, Houston’s third consecutive after it had a 14-game winning streak snapped last week.
“Paul George and Melo and Westbrook — not bad — and when they shoot the ball that well, they play that well, we have to make it up in other areas and that other area is over there in street clothes,” D’Antoni said. “That’s the way it is. It’s a pretty easy explanation — I think.”
The Rockets were without point guard Chris Paul for the second consecutive game with a left adductor strain.
They also have been without forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who has been out since Dec. 13 with a dislocated shoulder.
“We’ll be all right,” Harden said. “Guys are playing a little bit too many minutes. Our defense isn’t really there consistently and then our offense, we’re not making shots like we need to be.
“We’ll be all right, just got to fight through it. That’s part of it.”
Westbrook was just 4 of 14 from the floor in the first half.
“Keep playing,” Westbrook said. “One thing about me is I impact the game in different ways. Shooting is not the only way — scoring is not the only way — I impact the game. Defend, rebound, make plays for my teammates.
“For me, I’m a guy that does everything on the floor at all times. That’s what I laid on.”
Anthony’s pull-up jumper gave the Thunder the lead for good with just more than seven minutes remaining and Oklahoma City was 6 of 9 from the floor the rest of the way. The Thunder also got a pair of free throws in four attempts in the closing minutes from Roberson, who came in shooting less than 30 percent from the free-throw line.
NOTES: Thunder G Andre Roberson left the game early with a dislocated finger on his left hand. He returned from the locker room a few minutes later with the middle and ring fingers on the hand taped together. ... Houston C Clint Capela returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a left heel contusion. ... Thunder C Steven Adams scored 15 points — 12 in the first quarter and all by halftime. ... The Rockets are 5-5 all-time on Christmas Day, while Oklahoma City is 6-13. The franchise was 0-11 on the holiday before moving from Seattle. ... The Thunder have played on Christmas Day eight consecutive seasons, the second-longest streak in the league. The Los Angeles Lakers have played on every Christmas since 1999.