Thunder visit Harden-led Rockets

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Updated: December 29, 2012

With their first losing streak of the season put to an end, the Oklahoma City Thunder can now concentrate on picking up a rare victory in Houston as they visit the Rockets for a Saturday night showdown with former teammate James Harden.

The Thunder own one of the best records in the NBA, but had a 12-game winning
streak snapped with a loss at Minnesota on Dec. 20. They then lost consecutive
games for the first time all season when they were bested in Miami on
Christmas Day.

Hoping to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since April, Oklahoma
City used a late surge by Russell Westbrook to secure a 111-105 overtime win
over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

Westbrook matched his points total through the first four quarters by scoring
eight in overtime. He also had 10 assists and grabbed six rebounds.

“I just try to make an impact on the game,” said Westbrook, who only shot 4-
of-16 prior to overtime. “Maybe it’s not scoring. Maybe it’s rebounding, maybe
it’s passing, maybe it’s defending. But I just try to make an impact on the
game every night.”

Kevin Durant poured in 40 points — 26 of which came in the second half — to
help rally the Thunder from a 10-point deficit with eight minutes remaining in
regulation, while Serge Ibaka added 19 points and 17 rebounds in the Thunder’s
11th straight win at home.

“That was a heck of a basketball game,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.
“I thought both teams played with a maximum amount of effort. Obviously we
have some things to work on.”

Though the Thunder have won seven of their last 10 versus the Rockets, the
franchise has lost 12 of its past 14 in Houston.

Oklahoma City did log a 120-98 home victory over Houston back on Nov. 28,
facing Harden for the first time since dealing him to the Rockets prior to the
start of the season.

While Durant led the way for the Thunder with 37 points, Harden struggled to
17 on 3-of-16 shooting.

The loss capped a long 24 hours for the Rockets, who following a win over the
Toronto Raptors, flew to Minnesota for the funeral of head coach Kevin
McHale’s daughter “Alexandra “Sasha” McHale before heading to Oklahoma City
for that night’s game.

The 23-year-old Sasha passed away the previous Saturday following a long
battle with lupus.

Kevin McHale has since returned to the club following a leave of absence and
the Rockets have gone 9-5 this month. That includes a season-high five-game
winning streak that came to an end in Friday night’s 112-116 setback to the
San Antonio Spurs.

Harden had a game-high 33 points with seven assists and five rebounds, while
Chandler Parsons had 24 points and eight rebounds.

“I think we’re the top two teams in the league when it comes to pace,” said
Houston guard Jeremy Lin. “Today was definitely a fast one and it’s both of
our styles, we just couldn’t catch them at the end.”

Lin ended with 21 points, eight assists and four steals for the Rockets, who
play the first of three straight at home and are 11-5 as the hosting club this
season.