Defense Shuts Down Rockets Late And Westbrook Slams Home A Winner

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Oklahoma City Thunder defense, in particular Andre Roberson’s defense, snuffed out the Houston Rockets high-powered offense in the 4th quarter and Russell Westbrook powered in a left-handed slam dunk with 5.5 seconds left to give the Thunder a thrilling 105-103 win putting an emphatic end to a four-game losing streak.

OKC’s defense, which has been terrible at times in the four losses, forced the Rockets into 10 straight missed shots and three turnovers over about a 6:30 stretch of the fourth quarter. The only Houston points during that time coming on a meaningless 3-pointer as time ran out.

The Thunder had trouble making shots too but Roberson slammed home an alley-oop pass from Westbrook to put the Thunder up 102-100 with just under two minutes to play and Westbrook finished things with that slam of his own.

Westbrook and Victor Oladipo had huge offensive nights. Russ leading all scorers with 30 points on 9-for-20 shooting, seven rebounds and nine assists.

Oladipo was blazing from the start and finished with a season-high 29 points on 12-for-18 shooting overall and 5-for-7 on threes.

But it was Roberson’s defense on Rockets star James Harden that kept the Thunder close all night. Harden, the former OKC sixth man, scored a season-low 13 points on just 4-for-16 shooting (1-for-5 on threes).

“He really did a great job on him,” Said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “I don’t know if Andre gets enough credit for the kind of defender he is and the way he works and the way he sacrifices. He’s never wrapped up in scoring, he’s just wrapped up in winning.”

Harden usually makes a living at the line but not Wednesday night. He took only seven free throws and missed three of them.

“That was big,” Roberson said of keeping Harden off the line. “He is great a drawing fouls My job is to keep my hands inside and kind of slide my feet and show the refs my hands to let them know I’m not fouling him.”

The Rockets put up more 3-point shots than any team in the league, 43.7 percent of their shots are from beyond the arc and 38.1 percent of their points come on long balls which also leads the NBA.

But Wednesday night the Thunder took 15 fewer threes than the Rockets but made just two fewer. OKC hit 48 percent from beyond the arc.

The Thunder had a big lead early, up by 13 halfway through the first quarter, but then trailed by 11 in the third. In fact Oklahoma City led for less than two minutes in the second half but the good guys had the lead when it mattered most, when the clock hit 0:00.

The Thunder homestand continues Friday night when the Brooklyn Nets come to town and then the Indiana Pacers will be in for a visit on Sunday. That will wrap up a stretch of eight out of nine games at home.



Randy RennerComment