James Harden went off for 41 points as the Rockets left Oklahoma City with a thrilling 115-112 win on Easter Sunday.
The Thunder went up 10-3 early, but the Rockets responded with a Harden three-pointer and three consecutive alley-oops to take the lead. Houston didn’t let up and went on an 18-0 run.
Dwight Howard opened the game with a dunk from the post and caught two of the three alley oops in the “triple oop” run in the first and later finished another from Josh Smith. Howard played 22 minutes and finished with 22 points.
The Rockets continued to dominate the paint in the second. With just over seven minutes remaining in the quarter, Houston had more points in the paint (26) than OKC had total points. The Rockets pushed the lead to as many as 13, but a few turnovers helped OKC trim the lead to single digits by halftime.
James Harden heated up in the third, scoring 14 of his 31 points for his league-leading 34th game of the season with 30+ points. While Harden converted 11 of his 13 free throw attempts, the rest of the team struggled from the line with 18 total misses.
Russell Westbrook finished with his league-leading 11th triple double of the season as Oklahoma City rallied to tie it at 100 with three minutes left in the fourth. Then James Harden truly stepped up. The Beard drilled two consecutive threes with a hand in his face to put Houston up six before picking up foul number six. Harden finished with 41, his league-leading 10th game this season with 40+ points and the second-most such games in franchise history (Moses Malone, 12 in 1981-82).
With the game on the line in the closing seconds, Jason Terry, Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer knocked down 5-6 free throws to seal the victory with the Beard on the bench as Westbrook’s 33-foot desperation heave fell short at the buzzer. The Rockets will finish their 3 game road trip on Wednesday in San Antonio.