Game-Winning Shots Fall Short For Thunder In 96-95 Loss
Grant Belcher, News9.com
HOUSTON – Even though the Thunder have had more than their fair share of lucky bounces this season, it's still a shocker when an end-of-game situation doesn't go OKC's way.
As usual, Oklahoma City had four chances in the final 15 seconds to clinch the win but couldn't get any of them to drop in a 96-95 loss.
Kevin Durant missed three shots in a span of 13 seconds, each shot separated by an out-of-bounds call going the Thunder's way.
After Durant's third miss, a running 10-footer, Russell Westbrook had a chance to tip in the winning shot but it rimmed out and Rockets guard Goran Dragic pulled down the rebound.
The worst part of how everything played out was the fact that the Thunder essentially wasted a feverish comeback in the first half after trailing by 18, sparked by play of usual bench warmer Royal Ivey.
Oklahoma City shot just 6-of-24 in the first quarter, but more importantly was giving up way too many easy looks to the Rockets.
That combination resulted in a 29-13 Houston lead after one quarter.
Scott Brooks obviously missed the defense of guard Thabo Sefolosha, whose projected return is still a mystery after what the team is mitigating as a "sore foot."
So in an effort to put some more defensive effort into the game, Brooks inserted Ivey to go along with a strange lineup of Reggie Jackson, James Harden, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed.
But that lineup helped spark a 10-2 run that brought the Thunder right back into it.
OKC went on to shoot 11-of-18 in the second quarter while holding Houston to 7-of-24 shooting and tied the game up before trailing by a slim 45-44 margin at the half.
In the third quarter, a huge play between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant gave the Thunder its first lead of the ballgame.
Three minutes into the third, Durant missed a short jumper but Westbrook went sailing out of bounds after the rebound, saving it by a shoestring back inbounds to Durant, who drained a 3.
It was the first of several brief leads for Oklahoma City in the second half, but it couldn't gain the lead back when it mattered the most.
Durant led all scorers with 33 points (15 in the third quarter) and eight rebounds. Westbrook had 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
James Harden was the only other Thunder player in double figures with 17.
Four of Houston's five starters reached double figures, led by Kevin Martin with 32, which tied a season high.
OKC fell to 22-7 on the season while Houston upped its record to 17-13.
The Thunder will have Thursday off before returning to Chesapeake Energy Arena for a Friday tipoff against Golden State. Tipoff against the Warriors is set for 7 p.m.