HOUSTON -- With their top two scorers sufficiently equipped to thrive at an accelerated pace, the Oklahoma City Thunder blitzed the game-weary Houston Rockets 124-94 on Saturday night at Toyota Center.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook posted 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while forward Kevin Durant added 26 points despite a 1-for-8 shooting start to pace Oklahoma City (23-6) to its second blowout victory over the Rockets (16-14) this season. The Thunder rolled to a 120-98 triumph in Oklahoma City on Nov. 28.
The Rockets, playing their fourth game in five nights, dropped both games of a back-to-back following a season-best five-game win streak. James Harden again struggled shooting against his former team, needing 17 shots to score 25 points after shooting 3-for-16 in the first meeting.
With their hastened pace again paying dividends, the Rockets weathered their sluggish start and closed to within 52-50 when Harden and his backcourt mate, Jeremy Lin, combined for eight consecutive points midway through the second quarter. Second-year forward Marcus Morris scored 16 first-half points to keep the Rockets afloat until Harden and Lin warmed up. That was before Durant caught fire.
Durant scored 11 points during a 16-0 blitz that closed the first half. He made his final three shots of the second quarter and then extended his torrid shooting into the third as the Thunder extended the lead to 29.
Oklahoma City sandwiched three-point plays from Westbrook and Serge Ibaka around a Durant 3-pointer to build an 87-58 lead at the 5:21 mark of the third. All told, the Thunder outpaced the high-scoring Rockets 35-8 during a decisive 10-plus-minute stretch bridging the middle periods.
Kevin Martin, sent to Oklahoma City in the trade that landed Harden in Houston, scored 19 points off the bench. Morris finished with a career-high 24 for the Rockets while making his eighth consecutive start.
NOTES: Rockets forward Chandler Parsons recorded 24 points and eight rebounds in a road loss to San Antonio on Friday night, the fifth time this season he has produced at least 18 points and eight boards in a game. Parsons managed that feat only once as a rookie last season. "You don't really talk about him much, but that guy has really improved a lot," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He (averages 15.2) points per game and he does it pretty efficiently. He's a much-improved 3-point shooter." ... Rockets forward Patrick Patterson returned to action after missing seven games with a bone bruise in his right foot. He scored a career-high 27 points in a 120-98 loss to the Thunder on Nov. 28. "We'll try to keep him to 15, 20, 25 ... 30 minutes," Rockets coach Kevin McHale joked before the game. "I don't know. (Minutes limitations) never work anyway." Patterson played 10 minutes and went 0 for 5.