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Harden, Rockets rally past Thunder

James Harden recorded his seventh consecutive 30-plus-point game Tuesday, but when he needed scoring help down the stretch, he got it as the Houston Rockets rallied for a 113-109 win over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden finished with a game-high 41 points plus six rebounds and seven assists. However, a crucial stretch came with Harden either on the bench or facilitating, as the Rockets flipped an 88-86 deficit entering the fourth quarter into a 102-95 lead before Harden scored more than halfway through the final period.

Clint Capela (16 points, 23 rebounds) threw down a pair of dunks before Eric Gordon (17 points) converted a driving layup that extended the Houston lead to seven points. Guard Austin Rivers, one day after signing with the Rockets, subsequently drilled a pair of 3-pointers to keep the Thunder at bay.

Rivers scored 10 points in 31 minutes off the bench while P.J. Tucker added 11 points and seven boards for the Rockets, who won a second consecutive game without Chris Paul (hamstring). Houston has won seven of its past eight games overall.

Paul George paced the Thunder with 28 points and 14 rebounds while Russell Westbrook chipped in 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Steven Adams added 17 points and seven boards for Oklahoma City, which surprisingly finished at a deficit (54-52) on the boards.

What the Rockets established early was their determination on the glass against one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Capela was particularly instrumental, grabbing six rebounds to go along with six first-quarter points to set the tone for Houston.

The Rockets shot just 38.5 percent in the opening frame yet didn’t crater defensively despite allowing the Thunder to grab seven offensive boards. Oklahoma City converted those second opportunities into only three points.

The Thunder didn’t need second-chance points in the second period, shooting a blistering 16 of 25 overall with 26 points in the paint and seven in transition. Oklahoma City extended to an 11-point lead and forced seven turnovers in the frame, scoring from every conceivable angle.

However, while Adams and Westbrook combined for 28 first-half points, Harden kept the Rockets within range. After the Thunder built a 48-38 lead on an Adams alley-oop dunk, Harden converted two free throws, a jumper at the elbow and a 3-pointer in succession. An additional Harden floater and 3-pointer inside the final 42 seconds of the half enabled Houston to cut the deficit to eight by the break.

The Thunder took their second loss in a row following a four-game winning streak.

–Field Level Media