Chris Paul got the last laugh against his former team on Monday.
Despite trailing by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Houston Rockets 112-107, reeling off a 41-20 run in the final frame.
Russell Westbrook's triple-double wasn't enough to end Houston's recent woes. The 26-16 Rockets have now dropped five of their past six games, and James Harden's horrid shooting (9-of-29 from the field, 1-of-17 from three) didn't help.
As for the Thunder (25-19), they won the season series 2-1 against Houston. With the two teams separated by just two games in the standings, Monday's win could end up having significant repercussions for playoff seeding down the line.
But it wasn't all good news for the Thunder on Monday, as starting center Steven Adams played just two minutes before being ruled out after suffering a sprained left ankle.
Russell Westbrook, HOU: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals
Chris Paul, OKC: 28 points, seven rebounds
James Harden, HOU: 29 points, nine rebounds, six assists
Dennis Schroder, OKC: 23 points
Danuel House Jr., HOU: 13 points
Danilo Gallinari, OKC: 25 points, 13 rebounds
Chris Paul Is on Fire
Two days after lighting up the Portland Trail Blazers for 30 points and seven assists in just 28 minutes, Paul was at it again, putting up 28 points Monday. He scored 27 of them in the first half alone.
Paul's perimeter shooting and efficiency have been on point in the past two games. Against Portland, he finished an impressive 11-of-15 from the field and 3-of-5 from three. Against Houston, he continued that trend, going 9-of-18 from the field and 4-of-8 from three.
For all of the talk heading into the season about the Thunder eventually looking to move Paul and his mammoth contract for young players and assets, he has the Thunder firmly in the playoff chase. If he continues to shoot like this, the Thunder are going to be a real problem in the second half of the season.
His second-half disappearance was somewhat concerning, though Gallinari and Schroder picked up the slack.
Russell Westbrook Is on a Tear Himself
Since December, Westbrook has been a different player. His scoring averages have continued to climb as the season has progressed.
- October: 22.5 PPG
- November: 21.5 PPG
- December: 27.1 PPG
- January: 30.3 PPG
Westbrook has now recorded five straight games with 30 or more points, and while the Rockets are just 3-5 in January, the duo of Westbrook and Harden are starting to click. At the very least, the two players are putting up numbers, with Harden averaging 31.4 points per game in the month.
That's down from the ridiculous 37.3 points he averaged in December and 39.5 points per game he posted in November, though Westbrook helping to pick up the scoring slack should benefit both Harden and the Rockets in the long run.
The Rockets needed every bucket Westbrook gave them on Monday, with Harden having one of his worst shooting performances in recent memory, though it ultimately wasn't enough to secure the win.
Houston will host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, while the Thunder will travel to Orlando that same day for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff against the Magic.