High-flying Rockets stay grounded

Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul driving to the basket during the second quarter of his team's 122-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Arena. Paul stole the show after converting five of six three-pointers to help the Rockets become
Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul driving to the basket during the second quarter of his team's 122-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Arena. Paul stole the show after converting five of six three-pointers to help the Rockets become the first team to reach 50 wins this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • The Houston Rockets are in a different stratosphere and, after winning their 16th consecutive game on Tuesday to become the first team to hit 50 victories this season, champions the Golden State Warriors know they have a fight on their hands.

Chris Paul scored 25 points as the Rockets overpowered hosts Oklahoma City Thunder 122-112 to remain atop the Western Conference, a half game ahead of the Warriors (50-14) who defeated the Brooklyn Nets 114-101.

The nine-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star produced a scintillating display from three-point range, hitting five of six to help the away team match the Boston Celtics for the longest NBA win streak this term.

Houston are on the second-longest win streak in their franchise history with another seven needed to break the record set in 2007-08, but they are remaining grounded despite their red-hot form.

"We just try to stay in the moment," Paul said in a post-game interview with ESPN. "Stay in the moment, not try to think about all that stuff. Just keep hooping and leave all that other stuff for everybody else to talk about."

The Rockets' greater depth in offence proved to be the Thunder's undoing, with seven players cracking double digits.

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    Houston Rockets' wins franchise record set in 2007-08. The current team are on 16 and need seven more to break their record.

And they torched the home team with their three-point proficiency, connecting on 17 of 33 three-pointers while shooting a robust 53.5 per cent overall.

NBA Most Valuable Player hopeful James Harden was happy to take a back seat to Paul, but still managed to come up with 23 points, 11 assists and five rebounds.

He, too, echoed Paul's sentiments, warning against complacency as the Rockets targeted a strong finish to the regular season.

"We've still got a long away to go, especially these last 20 games or whatever we've got left," he said.

"Every single game is going to be a different challenge that we are going to face."

The Thunder, meanwhile, remain firmly in the battle for one of the lower-seeded play-off spots, lying in seventh position at 37-29.

The talismanic figure of Russell Westbrook once again led the way for the Thunder with 32 points, while Carmelo Anthony finished with 23 points and Paul George added 17 points.

"We turned the ball over too much, both halves," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

"We need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball."

In Oakland, Stephen Curry scored 34 points as Golden State eased past the lowly Nets (20-45) at the Oracle Arena.

Kevin Durant had 19 points, Klay Thompson added 18 points and Draymond Green chipped in with 16 points to maintain their pursuit of Houston with both teams seemingly on a collision course in the West.

Rookie Jordan Bell, however, gave the Warriors an injury scare after suffering a sprained right ankle and an X-ray has been scheduled.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'High-flying Rockets stay grounded'. Print Edition | Subscribe