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Westbrook, Durant lead Thunder to another blowout of Rockets

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- With their top two scorers sufficiently equipped to thrive at an accelerated offensive pace, the Oklahoma City Thunder needed only to intensity their defensive effort to enjoy success Saturday night.

Sparked by a decisive burst of defense, the Thunder blitzed the fast-paced but game-weary Houston Rockets 124-94 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.

While the Rockets missed five consecutive shots after cutting the deficit to two points midway through the second quarter, the Thunder forced five turnovers to turn an evenly played affair into a commanding win.

"The first quarter we were just going back and forth until a team decided to play defense," Westbrook said. "And that was us."

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 against his former team, needing 17 shots to score 25 points after shooting 3-for-16 in the first meeting.

"Two of the fastest teams they played back to back, so it was a tough night for them," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Houston, which lost to the Spurs on Friday. "But we played well. Everything was clicking. We were making shots. We were moving the ball. We played a good game."

With their hastened pace again paying dividends, the Rockets weathered their sluggish start and closed to within 52-50 when Harden and 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.

"We were in it in the first half and we had a couple of mistakes and they went on a 17- or 18-point run," Harden said. "Small things like that, we really need to stay away from in order to beat these teams."

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.

One night after committing 24 turnovers in a 122-116 loss to the Spurs, the Rockets committed 24 turnovers to undermine any shot at a win.

"We turned it over again," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "It was a two-point game. I'm not sure how much time was left in the second and then they went on a 16-0 run, and during that time we turned it over, we didn't take good shots."

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," 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," McHale joked before the game. "I don't know. (Minutes limitations) never work anyway." Patterson played 10 minutes and went 0 for 5.
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