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Thunder crush Rockets in Game 1

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden told his teammates to expect it. He, more than anyone, knew what type of reception the Houston Rockets would get from the Oklahoma City Thunder fans. Their arena is regarded as one of the loudest arenas in the NBA. The former Thunder guard has seen what happens to opposing teams during the playoffs.

What the Rockets learned was that the Thunder know how to raise their game in the postseason and they will have to do the same if they want to compete. Oklahoma City rolled to a 120-91 Game 1 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"Believe it or not, I think this was good for us," Harden said. "It was definitely good for us. Now we know how to play. It's a lot of guys first time here to be in the playoffs. They were kind of shell shocked."

With Harden making his return to Oklahoma City, the Thunder (1-0) didn't allow him to create any late-game drama. They did exactly what good teams do by putting their feet on the Rockets' throat and not letting up.

"We did a good job of sticking to our game plan," Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook said. "We did a good job as a team of just sticking to it. Whatever our coaches asked us to do, I think we did a good job of doing that for 48 minutes."

Thunder forward Kevin Durant shot 7-for-15 from the field for a game-high 24 points. Point guard Russell Westbrook finished two rebounds away from a triple double. He collected 19 points, 10 assists and eight boards. Serge Ibaka added 17 points, seven boards and three blocks.

Harden paced the Rockets with 20 points on 6-for 19 shooting and was only 1-for-6 from behind the arc. The frontline of Greg Smith, Chandler Parsons and Omar Asik were held to a combined 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Game 2 is Wednesday back in Oklahoma City.

Houston began the night going 0-for-9 from the field. Its only points in the first six minutes came on a pair of free throws. It was evident the playoff atmosphere had gotten to the Rockets.

But it was Westbrook ability to penetrate at will that really hampered the Rockets early on.

"I thought Russell got loose a lot on long drives, four or five fee about the free throw line," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "With Russell, you've got to step in and take some charges. You have to try and slow him down. He was really playing downhill and coming at us hard."

Despite that, Oklahoma City didn't take advantage of Houston's cold shooting. After building its lead to 13 points, the Thunder allowed the Rockets to climb back into the contest behind the Wizardry of Harden. The Thunder led 26-19 after one quarter of action.

After Oklahoma City went up 20-8, Houston outscored them 30-18 to tie the game at 38-38 in the next eight minutes.

It was Ibaka's defensive tenacity that got the Thunder rolling again. His blocked shots led to easy fastbreak points. Oklahoma City went on a 22-9 run to close out the half and lead 60-47.

"We told them that every minute counts," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We knew that this team could make runs. That's what they do. Then we caught fire. We made some transition points off our defense. But we wanted to focus on those last five minutes. You can really impact a game while you are in there. I thought the guys did a great job of closing out that second quarter."

Oklahoma City continued to pour it on in the second. Houston had no answer for Durant's shot making and the overall speed and athleticism of the Thunder.

"We just wanted to take care of our home court," Durant said. "We haven't done anything yet."

NOTES: With its top three players under the age of 25, Oklahoma City is considered a young team. However, the Thunder still hold a significant advantage in experience over the Rockets. Heading into the series, Oklahoma City's roster had 625 playoff games on its resume while Houston had a combined 133. "With any team, especially as young as we are, you have to start somewhere," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "The object was to make the playoffs. Now we are here. What I tell them about the playoffs will mean very little. They have to experience it. That's how experience comes. You don't gain experience by listening to someone. You gain experience by doing it." ... No one has more experience than Oklahoma City's Derek Fisher, who has played in 230 playoffs games by himself and leads all active players. He trails only Robert Horry (244) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (237) on the all-time list. ... The Rockets were first in pace this season at 96.1 possessions/game. Against the Thunder, they averaged 107.3, their highest against any opponent. ... Houston's Chandler Parsons has a little extra motivation when taking on Oklahoma City. In the 2011 draft, the Thunder passed on the sharp shooting forward in favor of Reggie Jackson. Parsons didn't go until the second round to Houston. He hasn't forgotten the teams that passed on him, including Oklahoma City. "They are definitely on that list," Parsons told reporters. "They passed on me. They had the 24th pick, right? I'll never forget that."
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