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Rocket Power: Harden Shreds Listless Thunder

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HOUSTON, Texas -

Coming off of a rare five-day break, the Thunder looked like they were still mentally on vacation.

The Rockets outscored Oklahoma City 40-18 in the opening quarter and cruised to a 112-101 victory on Thursday night in Houston.

The same lackluster energy that haunted OKC in its past three games was evident once again. After the Thunder took a 4-0 lead, Houston exploded on a 16-0 run. James Harden scored seven unanswered to propel the Rockets' assault, and by the time OKC stopped the bleeding, the damage was done.

Oklahoma City never got the deficit back to single digits. This one was truly decided in the first five minutes.

In the Thunder's defense, things picked up from there. Kevin Durant got hot and drained a few 3-pointers, while Kendrick Perkins brought some good energy off the bench. OKC outscored Houston 35-24 in the second and got within 64-53 at the half. Houston picked the energy back up in the third quarter and the Thunder's comeback hopes quickly ended.

Durant finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting but was one of only two Thunder players to shoot better than 50 percent. The other was Reggie Jackson, who finished with an efficient 16 points on 7-of-12.  Russell Westbrook, playing often with foul trouble, finished with 16 points, eight assists and five steals. Dion Waiters added 16 points in 31 minutes off the bench.

Harden, perhaps the most notable castaway since Gilligan, barely missed a triple double. He poured in 31 points, dished out 10 assists and snagged nine rebounds as he mercilessly shredded his former teammates. Harden shot 6-of-8 from downtown and only turned it over twice.

Trevor Ariza dropped 17 points, Donatas Motiejunas added 14 points, and Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Patrick Beverley each added 13 points.

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Oklahoma City (18-20) slipped to 3 ½ games behind the Suns for the No. 8 spot in the West. Houston (28-12) remains in the No. 4 spot. The Thunder will look to bounce back against the 31-5 Warriors on Friday night in Oklahoma City. Golden State has won eight games in a row.

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