A game that had been billed as a battle to decide the Most Valuable Player Award ended up being, as our own Dylan Buckingham aptly pointed out, a microcosm of the tight race: Russell Westbrook had the better numbers, but James Harden and his team snagged the victory.
The Rockets took a 3-1 lead in the season series in their 135-127 defeat of the Thunder in a matinee matchup. Despite the loss, Russell Westbrook notched his 36th triple-double of the season, scoring 39, adding 11 rebounds and 13 assists.
James Harden, on the other hand, scored 22 points, passed out 12 dimes, and grabbed five rebounds.
Ask either one, and they’d tell you the same thing: they’d rather have the victory.
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The Rockets didn’t once trail against the Thunder in a wire-to-wire victory. Lou Williams led the Rockets in scoring from the bench with 31 points. Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon scored 24 apiece for Houston, shooting a combined 10-17 from three-point range.
For the Thunder, Enes Kanter was the second-leading scorer with 23. Thunder players not named Kanter and Westbrook struggled to find any sort of rhythm while the Rockets jumped out to 9-0 lead, shooting 71% in the first half. From the beginning, the Thunder were playing on a steep incline.
The lead was trimmed to 12 with four minutes remaining before a Lou Williams three.
The Thunder fall to 41-31, unable to take advantage of the Clippers’ lapse to move up in the playoff seedings. The Rockets improve to 51-22. Next up for Oklahoma City: they take on the Mavericks in Dallas at 7:30 Monday evening.