By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Kevin Durant knew what was coming Saturday afternoon when he spoke to local reporters about the Houston Rockets.
“They’re desperate,” he said and then repeated, “They’re desperate. They wanna get in the playoffs, they play extremely hard and they never quit.”
And they didn’t on Sunday afternoon when they kept erasing OKC leads and then dominated the fourth quarter, torching another Thunder lead to win 118-110.
It’s the 13th time this season the Thunder have led going into the fourth quarter and gone on to lose and six of OKC’s last seven losses have gone down just that way.
The Thunder turned it over 21 times resulting in 25 Houston points. Five of those turnovers came in the fourth quarter when the Thunder gave up 38 points on 61.1 percent shooting (11-for-18).
That fourth quarter is even more shocking considering Houston shot just 40.2 percent for the entire game and had hit just 35.1 percent of their shots through the first three quarters.
Those Thunder turnovers and and a whopping 22 offensive rebounds by Houston kept the Rockets in the game and helped lead to their win. Despite those 22 offensive rebounds the Thunder actually scored more second-chance points (27 on 10-for-13 shooting) than the Rockets (21 on 8-for-21 shooting) It was the third, fourth, fifth and sixth chance shooting by Houston that killed the Thunder.
Did the Rockets simply want this game more than the Thunder? Maybe.
They really needed it to keep their playoff chances going with the schedule they have coming up. OKC is already in the playoffs and all but a mathematical certainty to finish with the third seed in the Western Conference.
But make no mistake, the Thunder were definitely trying to win this game they just never could get enough distance between themselves and Houston.
Durant finished with 33 points and eight rebounds. He also had six of those 21 turns. Russell Westbrook came just short of his 17th triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting but no one else for OKC got into double figures.
James Harden again, like he does most every time he plays OKC, had a big game with 41 points and nine assists. He dropped in five 3s. Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff went deep into his bench, playing almost everyone available and getting points from everyone who played.
Bickerstaff’s move came as the result of some of his more established players struggling at times but once those younger bench players ignited a fire the rest of the Rockets left the launch pad too.
Losing the game doesn’t really mean much of anything in the standings for the Thunder but helps the Rockets massively. The problem for OKC is after an eight game winning streak in which it looked as though they had left their issues behind and solved most of their problems, they’ve all creaped back in over these last two games.
The loss in Detroit doesn’t count because Durant and Serge Ibaka were being rested.
But the Thunder struggled to defend and take care of the ball during most of the Clippers game Tuesday night and if not for finding themselves and shutting LA down over the last four minutes and change the Thunder would have lost that one.
This time the defense against first shots was great, but a failure to block out coupled with some bad bounces kept giving the Rockets additional opportunities possession after possession.
22 Houston offensive rebounds combined with 21 OKC turnovers adds up to way too many extra Rockets possessions for the Thunder to defend.
It’s a bad way to start a four-game road trip especially with a back-to-back in mile-high Denver and raucous Portland coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday.