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Thunder vs. Rockets: Score, Highlights, Reaction from 2017 Regular Season

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 26:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets shoots a foul shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 26, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Sunday's matchup between the Houston Rockets (51-22) and Oklahoma City Thunder (41-31) was billed as a showdown between league-leading MVP candidates James Harden and Russell Westbrook

However, the focus quickly shifted from a compelling one-on-one clash to a team-wide thrashing as the Rockets cruised to a 137-125 win at Toyota Center. 

The Rockets put on a masterclass in offensive execution all game long, and they collectively shot 63.3 percent from the field and 51.3 percent from three en route to capturing a 3-1 season series victory over the Thunder.

The Starters' Tas Melas explained the Rockets' spread pick-and-roll attack opened up the court in eye-popping ways: 

Tas Melas @TasMelas

The Rockets look like they're playing offense on a football field the way they space out the Thunder.

Harden was his usual, effective self with 22 points (8-of-15 shooting) and 12 assists, and he buried the Thunder for good with a long-distance trey at the third-quarter buzzer:

With a win in hand thanks to Harden's performance, the Rockets' Twitter account took a not-so-subtle shot at Westbrook: 

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

An #MVP performance by @JHarden13 today. https://t.co/208UKAbd6k

The real story, though, was the play of Houston's bench, as SB Nation's Mike Prada noted: 

Reggie Comma Mike Prada @MikePradaSBN

The difference between Houston and OKC is that Houston's second unit is legit

Lou Williams was locked into a special zone all game long, and he poured in a team-high 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 7-of-8 from three, in 31 minutes off the bench. 

Sam Dekker, meanwhile, chipped in eight points—including a silky spin move through contact as the Rockets created separation during a 79-point first half, as the team's official Twitter account documented: 

Houston Rockets @HoustonRockets

We see you @dekker! 🌪💪 https://t.co/ledC1ImfTP

Speaking of which, ESPN Stats & Info noted the Rockets' scoring explosion over the game's first 24 minutes was nearly unprecedented: 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The Rockets scored 79 points in the first half. It's tied for the 2nd-most points Houston has ever scored in the 1st half (87 in 1990-91).

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece. Those figures jumped out, considering Oklahoma City's supporting cast couldn't offer Westbrook similar reinforcements. 

While Westbrook carded his 36th triple-double—five shy of Oscar Robertson's single-season recordwith 39 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, the Thunder had just one other player (Enes Kanter) top 20 points on a night when they were outscored 60-33 from beyond the arc.   

That didn't cut it against the Rockets' cadre of scorching shooters. 

If there's good news for the Thunder, it's that they'll be right back at it Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks with a chance to put Sunday's defensive debacle in the rear-view mirror. 

For the Rockets, Monday will represent a day off as they hunker down and prepare to host the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, in what could be a Western Conference Finals preview. 

Postgame Reaction

ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins and the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith provided updates regarding Harden's wrist after he had his left hand wrapped heavily following a hard fall late in the fourth quarter: 

Calvin Watkins @calvinwatkins

MDA said Harden jammed his wrist a few games ago. He's just playing through it.

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Harden said wrist will be fine. Asked if he will rest, he just grinned wide. (No.) #Rockets

Back in the Thunder locker room, Westbrook discussed his friendship with Harden, as the Norman Transcript's Fred Katz documented: 

As for Harden's final stat line, Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni came away impressed with the way his star player deferred. 

"He could've easily gotten 40 points," he said, per Smith. "He just plays the game the way it should be played."

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