Harden, Nene give Rockets a late blast

James Harden is fouled by Oklahoma's Enes Kanter as he drives to the basket at Toyota Centre. The Houston guard posted 26 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds - just missing out on a fourth straight triple double.
James Harden is fouled by Oklahoma's Enes Kanter as he drives to the basket at Toyota Centre. The Houston guard posted 26 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds - just missing out on a fourth straight triple double.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Westbrook's 49pts not enough for Thunder as three mistakes near the end prove costly

HOUSTON • Russell Westbrook repeatedly had his way with the Rockets defence, torching it to the tune of a Toyota Centre scoring record for an opponent.

Yet, three late misses set the table for James Harden to be the winner instead.

Nene Hilario corralled a pass from Harden, absorbed a foul, and sank two free throws with 0.7 of a second left, as the Houston Rockets eked out a 118-116 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in their National Basketball Association (NBA) game on Thursday night.

Nene finished with a season-high 18 points over 17 minutes.

"I just got open and I saw two defenders guarding me, made the simple play to Nene and he knocked down two free throws," said Harden after posting 26 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds - two rebounds short of his fourth straight triple-double.

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  • Russell Westbrook missed six of his eight shots in the final quarter, as Oklahoma City led 116-114 with 1:55 left but Houston closed out the game with four points to win 118-116.

All five Rockets starters scored in double figures, including guard Patrick Beverley (11 points, eight rebounds). Eric Gordon scored 22 off the bench.

The Rockets (28-9) regained possession after Westbrook missed a pull-up jumper with 5.7 seconds left, his third consecutive errant shot following a three-pointer that cut the Houston lead to 114-113 with 2min 38sec left.

Westbrook scored 49 points, sinking a career-best eight three-pointers. He added eight rebounds and five assists for the Thunder (21-16).

Houston took a 2-1 season-series lead against the Thunder, with all three contests decided by one possession.

"It's fun, definitely fun," Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said.

"It's all you can ask for: A hard-fought game and we get the win at the end of it."

After the Rockets erased a 14-point deficit with a 25-point turnaround in the first half, the Thunder returned the favour by wiping away an 85-67 third-quarter deficit.

Victor Oladipo (17 points) capped the rally with a corner three for a 116-114 lead at the 1:55 mark.

The Thunder bludgeoned the Rockets on the boards in the fourth, chipping away behind Enes Kanter (15 points, 13 rebounds) and NBA scoring leader Westbrook.

Westbrook scored nine points in the period and Oklahoma City turned six offensive rebounds into eight second-chance points in the fourth. But he missed six of eight shots in the quarter, as the Thunder failed to maintain the momentum that sprung from its long, methodical push to the lead.

"There are going to be some close games in the post-season where we'll have to figure ways to close them out, and it isn't always going to be us making shots and it being perfect," Harden said.

"We're going to have to get stops sometimes."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Harden, Nene give Rockets a late blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe