|Date of game: 3/11/2014
Houston Rockets (44-19) at Oklahoma City Thunder (46-17), 8 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets are a different team since the last time they faced the Oklahoma City Thunder and look to exact revenge when the two Western powers engage in battle Tuesday night.
The Rockets have lost the first two encounters with the Thunder by double digits and are 4-10 in the last 14 games in this series. They have also lost six of seven trips to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But Houston's fortunes have turned lately with five straight wins and 15 in the last 17 tries. The Rockets are an NBA-best 23-6 since Jan. 1 and have not lost a game in 2014 when scoring 100 or more points.
Houston has hit the century mark in every game during its winning streak and is third in the NBA with 106.6 ppg. The Rockets have knocked off the likes of NBA powers Miami, Indiana and Portland in the last five games and needed overtime to defeat the Trail Blazers 118-113 on Sunday.
James Harden, the Western Conference Player of the Week, scored 20 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and is averaging 29.8 points in his last 11 games. He is fifth in the league with 24.9 ppg and buried a big 3-pointer to make it 106-106 late in regulation.
Jeremy Lin netted 26 points off the bench, Dwight Howard had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Chandler Parsons chipped in 16 points for the Rockets, who scored 32 points off 21 turnovers and erased a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Houston scored 12 of the 19 points in the extra stanza for its eighth straight win at home.
"When you win games like this, it gives you the feeling that if you keep grinding and keep fighting, you can make things happen," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "It gives you a confidence and an ability to stick to what you do and play hard."
McHale's team will start a rough three-game road trip Tuesday against Oklahoma City, Chicago and Miami, and is third in the Western Conference, just 2 1/2 games off the top spot.
Oklahoma City has struggled lately with two straight losses and five over the last eight games. It suffered an embarrassing 114-110 loss to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and a late-game rally fell short.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with a triple-double of 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Serge Ibaka had 21 points and 15 boards for OKC, which squandered an 18-point lead in the first half and later trailed by that many after a 23-2 run by L.A.
"We have to do a better job of executing on the defensive end of the floor," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "We had trouble staying in front of the basketball tonight. It's something that we have to continue to work on and build going forward."
Durant, the NBA's leading scorer with 31.7 ppg, has three triple-doubles on the season and six in his career. He has scored 25 or more points in the last 28 games, a streak that is one game shy of his 29-game run in 2009-10. He is averaging 35.0 ppg in that stretch.
The Thunder have scored 100 or more points in the last seven games and are fifth in the NBA with 105.7 ppg. They will try to improve their 26-6 home record and have won three in a row as the host.
Oklahoma City will play its next three games at home versus Houston, the Lakers and Dallas, and sits a half-game behind San Antonio for the Western Conference lead.
Tuesday's game is sure to be a high-scoring affair.