Oklahoma City Thunder storm to late victory

Donatas Motiejunas (far left) of the Houston Rockets trying to block a shot by Oklahoma's Russell Westbrook during the hard-fought 111-107 win by the Thunder.
Donatas Motiejunas (left) of the Houston Rockets trying to block a shot by Oklahoma's Russell Westbrook during the hard-fought 111-107 win by the Thunder.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Rockets go down in see-saw final quarter as Westbrook, Durant nullify Harden's heroics

LOS ANGELES • Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sparked the Oklahoma City Thunder to a hard-fought 111-107 win over the Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association league on Tuesday, as a 24-point effort from James Harden ended in vain.

Durant scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out four assists. Westbrook tallied 21 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds for his third straight triple-double and 15th of the season.

Oklahoma (49-22) also earned their fifth win in a row. They are undefeated this year when Westbrook has a triple-double. "I am just trying to find the right way to play," he said. "A lot of those games are big games for us. I just play my game. The game will tell you what to do."

James Harden paced the Rockets with 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting, and he added 16 assists. Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley each scored 16 for Houston (35-36). Howard finished with a team-high 13 rebounds.

During the fourth quarter at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Westbrook completed a three-point play with 6min 50sec left to give Oklahoma a 92-90 advantage. He made a free throw on the next trip to put the Thunder up by three.

But Harden knocked down a pair of free throws to cut Houston's deficit to 97-96 with 3:44 left.

After a Durant miss, Beverley drained a three-pointer to push the Rockets in front 99-97. However, Steven Adams quickly tied it up on a dunk.

The Thunder then forced a turnover that led to a Westbrook one-man fast break in which he skied for a tomahawk dunk. Another defensive stop was turned into a Westbrook jumper and a four-point advantage.

Jason Terry and Harden hit back-to-back three-pointers to get the Rockets to within one point with 11.8 seconds left.

Oklahoma forward Serge Ibaka made just one of two from the line, leaving the door open for Houston to edge back into the game.

Harden got the ball at the top of the key and was quickly double- teamed by Durant and Adams. He attempted to throw an alley-oop to Howard, but Dion Waiters leaped high enough to deflect the pass and save the game.

"Dion Waiters did a heck of a job, coming in from the corner, putting his body on Dwight and interfering with the pass," Houston interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

"It was the right read by both our guys offensively. But it was a heck of a defensive play by Waiters to deflect the ball."

In just the fifth game back since the death of his younger brother, the reserve guard broke out of a slump that had lasted since the All-Star break, scoring 17 points in 25 minutes.

"My brother is on my mind every day," Waiters said.

"I'm not going to get over it for a while. I have to take it day by day and just try get over. But I'm not ever going to get over it. It's family.

"I think we did a tremendous job as a team. As a team we really locked in and we made it tough on them," he added.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'THUNDER STORM TO LATE VICTORY'. Print Edition | Subscribe