The Oklahoma City Thunder played Friday fresh off of halting the San Antonio Spurs' 19-game win streak, but they could not keep their own three-game streak intact. The Houston Rockets hosted the meeting and clinched a playoff spot as James Harden's free-throw procession led the team to a 111-107 victory.
Harden scored a game-high 39 points on 22 shots. Chandler Parsons scored 23 points, but his defense was the key to the victory against Kevin Durant.
Durant finished with 28 points and extended his streak of 25-point games to 40 in a row, tying Michael Jordan as the only players with such a streak in the last 50 years.
As Westbrook told the Associated Press after Thursday's win over the Spurs, Durant's 39th consecutive 25-point game, via ESPN: "That's a lot of games to be scoring 25 points in a row. You can't just not think about that. That's an unbelievable stat. I think he may just finish the season doing that. He does that in his sleep."
Despite tallying 28, Durant was largely held down by Houston's defense, and the last six points were merely desperation threes with his team losing late. Serge Ibaka tallied 27 points and swatted nine shots.
The Thunder stormed out of the locker room in the second half for a 39-point third quarter, but their defense could not slow Harden and the Rockets down the stretch.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance. That increases and decreases based on the quality of each player's contributions. (We'll put role players on the grading curve.) Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every player.
Key Rockets Grades
James Harden, Shooting Guard
Harden was a menace on offense. He even slapped hands with Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon sitting courtside. He's got connections.
Harden poured in 39 points and proceeded to the foul line 20 times, making 17 of them. The Bearded One nearly notched a triple-double, but he came up one rebound and three dimes shy.
He drew a foul on a three-point shot inside of four minutes left, and strangely, he missed the first two free throws.
Chandler Parsons, Small Forward
Parsons was not quite as effective with his shot as he normally is, but he still got 23 points. He missed 12 of his 17 shots and was likely a little gassed from playing excellent defense on Durant, especially in the first half. Durant scored nine points and missed five of his seven shots in that half.
Parsons' defense was as much the key to the win as Harden's scoring.
Jeremy Lin, Point Guard
Jeremy Lin did not have his offensive glasses on against OKC. He was ineffective from the field and even blew an easy layup midway through the fourth quarter in a tight game. Lin blew eight of his 11 field-goal attempts, and he finished with eight points and three assists in 38 minutes.
Omer Asik, Center
Though still not at his 2012-13 level of prowess, Omer Asik looked sharp once again with Howard off the floor. Asik grabbed 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, and he would have scored more than nine points had he taken more than five shots (or not missed that fourth-quarter free throw).
Terrence Jones, Power Forward
Terrence Jones reached a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also collected a pair of blocks and a pair of steals. Ibaka scored plenty of points, but Jones did a creditable job around the rim.
Rest of Bench
Francisco Garcia played some admirable defense on Durant as well, though Parsons saw the bulk of it. Garcia scored only six points, but his late three-pointer gave Houston a six-point lead with under three minutes to play.
Isaiah Canaan has a great name, and perhaps that's why coach Kevin McHale deigned to award him 18 minutes Friday night. Canaan finished with six points.
Donatas Motiejunas got four points in five minutes and change.
Patrick Beverley missed the game with his sprained knee, and TNT's Jeff Van Gundy thought he should be fined for wearing camouflage pants on the sidelines.
Key Thunder Grades
Kevin Durant, Small Forward
Durant was double-teamed all night, but he managed to make some hay at the foul line and get to 28 points with a dozen trips to the line. He entered the final two minutes of the game with just 21 points, and though he passed the 25-point mark to equal Jordan's streak, the Thunder missed Durant's typical scoring.
Durant put in work on the boards with a dozen there, and he also dished six assists, but the Rockets gave a decent primer on holding down KD. Had Westbrook played, it might have been a different story.
Serge Ibaka, Power Forward
Ibaka was splendid from the floor and at the rim. He finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. He paced the offense at times while Durant was being hounded, and he did his best to protect the paint from Harden's assault.
Reggie Jackson, Point Guard
Reggie Jackson turned in another frenetic imitation of Westbrook, and he did a convincing job. Jackson started at the point, played just shy of 36 minutes and put down 17 points. He also distributed seven assists and snagged seven rebounds for a glimpse of his triple-double potential with starter's minutes.
Steven Adams, Center
TNT announcer and former coach Jeff Van Gundy was pleased to see Steven Adams, the rookie irritant from New Zealand, deploying an old-school trick. Adams grabbed a sly hold of Asik's arm as he came over on help defense. It resulted in an uncontested Jackson dunk with no foul called.
Adams started but did not even get 13 minutes on the court. He got two points, two rebounds, an assist and one savvy veteran play.
Andre Roberson, Shooting Guard
Andre Roberson was consistently ignored by Houston's defense as a non-threat. He missed all three shots he attempts, though he did chip in four boards, a steal and a block.
Rest of Bench
Nick Collison has been relegated to a bench role, and he seems happy just to have a group of guys to hang out with. He finished with five points and four boards in his usual lunch-pail effort.
Caron Butler came on with Roberson unable to find the hoop and put down 13 points with a trio of three-pointers accounting for most of it. He's been a valuable addition to the bench rotation.
Derek Fisher missed all of his shots except for one three-pointer. He also got his ankles broken by Harden on one fourth-quarter possession. Easy, old man!
There was a Jeremy Lamb sighting in Houston! He scored a dozen points on eight shots.
The Thunder fall 3.5 games behind the Spurs for first place in the West. They are also just two games ahead of the third-place L.A. Clippers. OKC visits the Phoenix Suns on Sunday with the Clippers coming later in the week.
The Rockets are nestled in fourth place, five games behind OKC and three games behind the Clippers. The fifth-place Portland Trail Blazers have an identical record over the last 10 games (6-4) and sit just two games back. Houston hosts the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.