|Houston Rockets center Jordan Hill (27) dunks in front of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, right, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)|
Thunder beat Rockets 109-94 to open busy stretch
OKLAHOMA CITY—Kevin Durant scored 26 points, top reserve James Harden added 23 and the Oklahoma City Thunder eased into their only stretch of three games on consecutive nights by beating the Houston Rockets 109-94 on Friday.
The Rockets fell to 0-5 on the road this season but get a rematch Saturday night on their home floor, where they've won their only two games this season.
The Thunder bounced back after following their 5-0 start with two straight losses and were able to rest all of their starters during the fourth quarter at the front end of a busy stretch on the schedule.
Durant played just under 28 minutes and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook logged about 25. Oklahoma City plays three in a row and five games in six nights.
Kevin Martin and Terrence Williams scored 13 points apiece for Houston.
Houston played without starting point guard Kyle Lowry because of a right foot injury. It was also the first game since Lowry was charged with misdemeanor battery after a female referee accused him of throwing a basketball at her and threatening her during a game at a Las Vegas training gym during the lockout.
Goran Dragic replaced him in the starting lineup and had 10 points and tied his career high with 11 assists.
Oklahoma City had been limited to only 40 second-half points in each of its losses but this time put the throttle down for 51 and put away the Rockets.
Durant and Westbrook combined to score the Thunder's first 10 points of the second half, and Kendrick Perkins scored underneath to finish a 12-4 opening run and provide a 70-45 lead just over 5 minutes beyond halftime.
Durant followed a spinning basket with a steal for a fast-break layup minutes later for a 76-49 advantage that was Oklahoma City's largest of the night.
The Rockets were able to get close enough to force Thunder coach Scott Brooks to burn a timeout and chat with his reserves, but never could force the starters back in to action and drain them for the rematch. New Houston coach Kevin McHale didn't use his starters much in the fourth either, except for Dragic and center Jordan Hill.
Patrick Patterson hit a jumper, Dragic made a 3-pointer and Chandler Parsons had a right-handed slam on a fast break to get Houston back within 91-75 with 7:53 left in the game. The Rockets got within 15 before Harden scored on back-to-back drives -- with one of them leading to a three-point play -- to convince Brooks to send in rookie Reggie Jackson instead of his starters.
Westbrook added 15 points and Serge Ibaka had 11 points and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City, which only trailed after Luis Scola's basket to open the game.
The Thunder then zoomed ahead by scoring nine fast-break points on their way to an early 16-8 lead. Harden scored seven straight points spanning the first-quarter break to bump the lead to 15, and the Oklahoma City reserves kept piling it on.
The Thunder backups outscored Houston 16-5 to start the second quarter, pushing ahead 46-25 after Nick Collison's jumper from the left side with 7:28 to go before halftime.
Martin led the Rockets back with two consecutive steals that led to four free throws, getting the deficit down to 14 before Ibaka's second career 3-pointer made it 58-41 Thunder at the halftime buzzer.
NOTES: The only other 3-pointer of Ibaka's three-year career also came against Houston, on Nov. 29, 2009. ... The Rockets had gone two straight games without a block for the first time since Dec. 25-27, 1997. Hill ensured it wouldn't be three straight by swatting Thabo Sefolosha's shot in the first four minutes of the game. ... Brooks was a part of Houston's NBA championship team in 1994.