Thunder complete historic comeback in win over Rockets

James Harden was nailing threes and the Thunder were turning it over at a stupid rate. All appeared to be an old fashion, NBA blowout. Oklahoma City never quit and turned in the best comeback in franchise history as they came back to beat Houston 117-112 on Saturday night.

With the victory, Oklahoma City improves to 36-19 on the season and are within a game of second place in the Western Conference. The Thunder now have won 10 of their last 11 games and are the hottest team in the NBA.

“We knew to get back into the game, we had to defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “We got stops and won a big game on the road.”

Houston led 68-42 with 1:38 left to go in the first half. The Thunder would outscore the Rockets 73-44 over the final 25:30 of the contest.

If you really boil it down, it was about a full quarter, which spanned two quarters that put Oklahoma City in that situation. The Rockets outscored the Thunder 43-19 over 12:10, spanning the first and second quarter. Paul George struggled (0-of-3) and the Thunder only shot 32 percent over that time span.

“We just knew we had to have a better second half,” George said. “Being down that much at the half, that’s not the team we are. We know this team very well and we knew that wasn’t us. So we had to come in here and talk and just light a fire under this team and we did that.”

George came out and lit the fire. Oklahoma City hit their first 8-of-9 shots, fueling a 21-10 advantage. The Thunder continued to pour it on. They would hit their next seven shots, including a slew of free throws to tie the game up at the end of the third.

Oklahoma City shot 71.4 percent in the quarter, nailing 7-of-12 from three. They pulled down 13-of-18 total rebounds. They held the Rockets to 6-of-18 from the field in the quarter and 1-of-9 from three.

“We knew to get back into the game, we had to defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “We got stops and won a big game on the road.”

The Thunder’s surge continued into the fourth quarter, leading by as many as six when Nerlens Noel put an alley-oop through, giving the Thunder a 98-92 with 9:19 to go in the game. Houston responded with an 11-0 run, giving them a five-point lead with 6:51 left to go.

George continued his onslaught, hitting shot after shot. The Most Valuable Player candidate showed why he belonged. On a national stage, George scored 28 points in the second half, 15 in the second half.

“Obviously, Paul with what he did tonight was phenomenal, the way he played,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He was on (James) Harden a lot. He was unbelievable tonight on both ends of the floor.”

George fought through foul trouble to continually giving James Harden fits. Harden shot only 2-of-8 from three in the second half and battled over screens to contest shot after shot.

“I look forward to playing against the best,” George said. “That’s how I was taught the game — just enjoy matchups and have fun with it.”

Oklahoma City led 113-112 with 26 seconds left, George and Westbrook fought over screens, Westbrook ended up finding himself contesting a deep Harden three. Oklahoma City pulled down the rebound and sealed the victory.

George finished with 45 points on 12-of-22 shots and hit 6-of-14 three-pointers and made 15-of-18 free throws.

Westbrook had 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds to match the record streak set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Westbrook has 22 triple-doubles this season and 126 overall. He also had 10 turnovers and was 8 of 21 from the field.

“It’s really incredible,” Donovan said. “It took whatever it was, 60 years, until somebody did it just to show you how hard it is to do and how unique of a player he is to be able to do it.”

Oklahoma City now owns the season series lead over the Rockets (2-1). They’ll play one more time but the Thunder cannot lose the head-to-head against the Rockets this season.

The Thunder now will turn their minds to the Portland Trail Blazers. Oklahoma City is 2-0 against Portland this season and will look to go 3-0 as they host the Blazers on Monday night at the ‘Peake. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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