In a game billed as the battle of the MVP favorites it was the other guys that pushed the Rockets to a 137-125 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday at Toyota Center.
Make no mistake, James Harden and Russell Westbrook got their numbers, Westbrook his normal triple-double (39 points, 18 in the fourth quarter, 11 rebounds and 13 assists), on 13-of-24 shooting, while Harden gave the Rockets 22 points and 12 assists, but on this day, the difference makers were the players around them.
Lou Williams was the Rockets leading scorer with 31 points off the bench. He shot 11-of-15 from the field, and drained seven of his eight attempts from behind the 3-point line.
Trevor Ariza missed just two shots on his way to a 24-point afternoon, while Eric Gordon scored 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Five of Westbrook’s teammates finished in double-figures, but Enes Kanter (23) was the only one to score more than 15.
Houston never trailed in the game, scoring the game’s first nine points only to see Oklahoma City trim that lead to two. The Rockets still led 37-31 after a quarter, but they dominated the second quarter.
The Rockets shot 76 percent, and scored 42 points, in taking a 79-59 lead at halftime. It eclipsed their highest scoring first half of the season (77 points vs Phoenix on February 11).
Oklahoma City opened the second half on an 11-3 run, but after a timeout, the Rockets answered with a 24-11 spurt to push the lead to 25, which was the lead when the quarter ended, thanks to Harden’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Westbrook’s big fourth quarter made things interesting as he shot 7-of-11 from the field. His third three of the quarter brought the Thunder within eight, but it came with 1:32 left in the game.
The win improves the Rockets to 51-22 on the season. They now lead the Jazz by seven games for the 3-seed with nine games to play.