HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – Russell Westbrook scored 49 points leading the Oklahoma City back from an 18 point deficit, but a pair of Nene free throws in the final seconds inched the Houston Rockets past the Thunder 118-116 Thursday night at Toyota Center.
Westbrook, added eight rebounds, but had only five assists, his fourth single-digit assist games in his last five.
James Harden finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists, just missing out on his fourth consecutive triple-double.
In the duel of two of the leaders for the NBA’s MVP award, the pair did not disappoint.
“(Westbrook) was unbelievable tonight,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “James was James… almost a triple-double again. Both of them are already in the running for MVP, rightfully so.
With the game tied at 116, Westbrook missed an open look for three giving the Rockets a final play with 3.7 seconds left.
“Did you see what happened,” Westbrook asked a reporter about the final miss. “There’s nothing to take you through. I missed the shot.”
Harden drew a double-team and found an open Nene under the bucket who was fouled on his dunk attempt by the Thunder’s Jerami Grant sending him to the line with .7 seconds remaining.
The Rockets struggled early offensively falling behind by as many as 14 in the first quarter. They would close out the quarter on a 17-7 run and closed to within five trailing 38-33 at the first break.
The offense picked up where it left off to start the second quarter. Nene’s dunk with 7:11 remaining in the period from Eric Gordon gave the Rockets their first lead at 47-45. That score began a 17-4 Rockets run capped off by a Ryan Anderson three to take a 62-51 lead.
The Rockets built their lead to 18 in the third and entered the final period up 97-83.
The Thunder re-claimed the lead briefly in the final quarter when Victor Oladipo hit a three from the corner with 1:55 remaining in the game. It was the Thunder’s first lead since the Rockets took it in the second quarter.
Eric Gordon, who is garnering a lot of teammate support for the NBA All-Star Game, chipped in with 22 points off the bench, including five makes from behind the three point line.
Nene added 18 points, while the injured Patrick Beverley added 11 points and eight rebounds playing with an injured wrist.
The Rockets will play their next two games away from Toyota Center beginning Friday night in Orlando against the Magic.
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