The Thunder’s Second Half Defense Sends The Rockets Crashing Down To Earth

The Thunder’s Second Half Defense Sends The Rockets Crashing Down To Earth

Last night’s game was definitely a tale of two halves. As it pertained to the first half, and especially the 1st quarter, both teams were lighting up the scoreboard faster than Snoop lights up a Swisher Sweet.

Dwight Howard attempts to block a Thabo Sefolosha lay-in. Howard finished the game with 11 points.

Dwight Howard attempts to block a Thabo Sefolosha lay-in. Howard finished the game with 11 points.

The Thunder started early with a 13-4 run, but the Rockets had no plans of lying down and taking it in the neck. Even though the Thunder had established a 9-point lead (23-14) with 4:58 remaining in the first, the Rockets chipped away at the lead until it was a mere 4 by the end of the first (36-32).

Kevin Durant posts up on Chandler Parsons, as Serge Ibaka looks on. Durant's 36 points led all scorers, while Ibaka posted a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double. Pasons closed the game with 14 points.

Kevin Durant posts up on Chandler Parsons, as Serge Ibaka looks on. Durant’s 36 points led all scorers, while Ibaka posted a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double. Parsons closed the game with 14 points.

When Steven Adams hit his third free throw of the quarter to extend the Thunder lead to 7 (41-34) with 10:14 left in the half, I doubt the Thunder realized that this would be the largest lead they’d see for the rest of it. The Rockets just started catching fire from behind the 3-point arc, dropping 9-of-14, or 64.3%. The 3-point barrage not only completely erased the Thunder lead, but had even established a nice 14-point lead (73-59) for the Rockets to carry into halftime. The 73 points scored by the Rockets are the most they’ve scored in a half all season.

Reggie Jackson looks to drive around Aaron Brooks, as Donatas Motiejunas looks on. Jackson finished the game with 21 points, as Brooks and Motiejunas combined for 26 off of the Rocket's bench (Motiejunas:15, Brooks: 11).

Reggie Jackson looks to drive around Aaron Brooks, as Donatas Motiejunas looks on. Jackson finished the game with 21 points, as Brooks and Motiejunas combined for 26 off of the Rockets bench (Motiejunas:15, Brooks: 11).

Now, I’m not exactly sure what was said or done in those locker rooms. But, it’s pretty obvious something significant happened during halftime that fans didn’t get to see, because two completely different teams took to the court for the second half.

James Harden, Nick Collison, and Jeremy Lamb sky for the loose ball. Harden's 16-points had him tied for the Rockets' leading scorer.

James Harden, Nick Collison, and Jeremy Lamb sky for the loose ball. Harden’s 16-points had him tied for the Rockets’ leading scorer.

It took a Dwight Howard foul on Kevin Durant to get things started, but the two made free throws, plus a Serge Ibaka hook shot cut the lead to 10 (73-63) with 10:43 left in the 3rd. Two-and-a-half minutes went by before a Terrence Jones dunk scored the first Rockets points of the second half. Some slight back-and-forth ensued, with the Rockets still up 12 (80-68) with 3:54 remaining in the quarter, but the Thunder ended the 3rd on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 83-all going into the final 12 minutes. The Rockets managed a grand total of 10 points in the entire 3rd quarter, which set a season-low for scoring in a quarter, right after establishing their season-high for points in a half. Sadly, for the Rockets fan, the news was only going to get worse.

Durant floats it home.

Durant floats it home.

The 4th quarter started with a hook shot by Howard to take the lead back for the Rockets, 85-83. Little did the Rockets know that this would be the last lead they would see all game. A Jeremy Lamb 3-pointer, followed by an Adams lay-up gave the lead back to the Thunder, 88-85. Howard drained a running hook with 10:07 remaining in the game to pull the Rockets to within 1 (88-87), but then over 4 minutes went by, with the only bucket in that time frame being a Reggie Jackson driving reverse lay-up reminiscent of ol’ Russell Westbrook himself. A Chandler Parsons lay-up (called “made” because of an Ibaka goaltend) with 6:00 remaining brought the Rockets back to within 1 (90-89), and then I guess the Rockets just ran out of fuel. The final 6 minutes of the game saw a 14-3 Thunder run seal the win by a score of 104-92. The Rockets set their season-low for scoring in a quarter for the second straight one, managing 9. To put that in perspective, the Thunder’s Jackson had 9 points in the 4th quarter by himself. This win puts the Thunder at 29-10, while dropping the Rockets to 26-15

Jackson does his best Durant imitation.

Jackson does his best Durant imitation.

Durant’s 36 points led all scorers to take the floor. Jackson dropped 23 points, and Ibaka posted his 17th double-double of the season with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Ibaka with the one-handed throw-down.

Ibaka with the one-handed throw-down.

Although you don’t score 73 points in a half without a few players hitting double digits. Jones had a 16-point, 13 rebound double-double. His 16, along with James Harden’s 16 points, led the Rockets’ scorers. Parson’s dropped 14 for the game, Howard chipped in 11, and Donatas Motiejunas and Aaron Brooks combined for 26 points from the Rockets bench (Motiejunas: 15, Brooks: 11).

Kevin Durant and Terrence Jones. Jones' 16-point, 13-rebound double-double just wasn't enough to seal the deal.

Kevin Durant and Terrence Jones. Jones’ 16-point, 13-rebound double-double just wasn’t enough to seal the deal.

This was an incredible finish to bring back to Chesapeake Energy Arena, as they lock horns with the Golden State Warriors this evening. These two teams have a 1-1 series split, as both teams won via last-second buckets on their home courts. Back on Nov. 14th, Westbrook gave the Thunder a 115-114 lead on a 3-point shot with 2.3 seconds remaining, only to see the win stolen from them by an Andre Iguodala buzzer-beater that gave the Warriors a 116-115 victory.

The favor was returned on Nov. 29th, when a Westbrook 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second remaining in overtime sealed a 113-112 win for the Thunder.

Tip-off for tonight’s contest is scheduled for 8:30 CST, and will be broadcast via ESPN, Fox Sports Oklahoma, and WWLS the Sports Animal.

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