Posted November 28, 2012 on AP on Fox
Kevin Durant matched his season high with 37 points, and Oklahoma City beat the Houston Rockets 120-98 on Wednesday night in James Harden's first game back in Chesapeake Energy Arena since being traded by the Thunder before the season. Harden scored 17 points, but was limited to 3-for-16 shooting. He had six shots blocked by the Thunder. Patrick Patterson scored 27 points and Omer Asik had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way for the Rockets, who began the day by attending the funeral of coach Kevin McHale's daughter in Minnesota. Harden missed his first nine shots, and by the time he made one, the Rockets were down by double digits in the second half. They never got closer than 10 after that. Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year as Oklahoma City made it to the finals last season, was unable to agree on a contract extension with the Thunder and was traded just before the season started. He then agreed to a maximum contract worth $80 million with Houston. Harden was at the center of a heated first-half incident that got Thunder backup center Hasheem Thabeet temporarily ejected. Thabeet and Harden exchanged words after Thabeet blocked two consecutive shots by Harden. Thabeet then bumped into referee Marc Davis and pushed him away, resulting in an ejection. But Davis went to instant replay and downgraded the punishment to a single technical foul. Fans gave Thabeet a standing ovation when he returned to the court, and booed lustily as Harden made his free throw. It was Harden's first point of the game and one of only two in the first half. Harden missed all eight of his shots from the field as Houston fell behind 57-45. Harden's return was only part of an emotion-filled day for the Rockets. After blowing out Toronto on Tuesday night, the Rockets flew to Minnesota and arrived at the team hotel between 1:30 and 2 a.m. They were back up by 8 for a team brunch and a scouting report in suits and ties before they went to the funeral. Acting coach Kelvin Sampson said McHale and his wife, Lynn, were arranging candles near some photos of Sasha and didn't immediately see the team walk in. ''We didn't know what to do or say, so we just waited for them to get finished, then they turn around and at the same time they looked at us,'' Sampson said. ''Really, really, really emotional.'' McHale hugged everyone in Houston's traveling party and shared a few words with each person. He took a leave of absence from the team on Nov. 10. Sasha died Saturday at age 23 of complications from lupus. ''Just to see our faces, I think, kind of gave him some kind of joy. Just to show him that we were there, our whole entire organization was there just to support him,'' Harden said. ''No matter if it was for 5 minutes or 30 minutes, he just wanted to see our faces. I'm glad we got that opportunity to go out there and share that moment with him.'' The team then flew to Oklahoma City, arriving at the arena less than 5 hours before game time. Sampson said about half of his players were in the locker room with towels over their heads, trying to squeeze in a nap during the afternoon. He wasn't sure whether to expect them to play ''lights out'' or play tired. ''I think our guys understand that there's something far more powerful and more important that happened today than their routine, and that was supporting a coach that lost a daughter,'' Sampson said. Daequan Cook, also involved in the Harden trade, scored 18 points while starting in place of injured Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (shoulder). Serge Ibaka scored 23 points and blocked six shots. Kevin Martin, the centerpiece of the trade from Oklahoma City's standpoint, had 17 points. The Thunder flashed a welcome back message to Harden, Cook and Cole Aldrich - the three players involved in the trade - on the overhead scoreboard with about 11 minutes left in pregame warm-ups'. Harden got a warm ovation when his name was announced with the starting lineups. Harden and Cook both greeted coach Scott Brooks and others on the Thunder bench just before tipoff, but then started slowly. Harden missed his first four shots - getting a jumper swatted from behind and out of bounds by Westbrook, and a fast-break layup blocked as Ibaka followed him to the basket - and committed two early turnovers. Cook also missed his first three shots, but then hit a jumper and a 3-pointer for a 19-14 Houston lead. Oklahoma City surged back ahead with an 18-4 run, including the first nine points of the second quarter, to go up 36-25 before Thabeet and Harden had their run-in. The lead grew to 49-33 after Harden's foul allowed Durant to convert a four-point play. By that point, Oklahoma City had scored 15 points off of 10 Houston turnovers. The Rockets were without a point in that category. Notes: Sampson formerly coached at Oklahoma for 12 seasons. ''The circumstances that I took over this position with, I just don't feel comfortable talking about me. I talk to Kevin every day. I talked to him the day his daughter died. I'm really, really close to Kevin and I'm holding the fort down until he comes back.'' ... Parsons hurt his right shoulder late in Houston's win against Toronto on Tuesday night. ''I don't think it's a joint. I think it's more soft tissue, but he can't get his elbow past 45 degrees,'' Sampson said.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Harden struggles in return to Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY Used to be, James Harden was cheered, not booed, even when he was bad. And by now you know what happened Wednesday night in his return to Oklahoma City as a starter and star for the Houston Rockets. Harden was real bad. Used to be, he was the most-popular player in Thunder blue, thanks to a game with flair and a beard that that was so popular it developed its own...

Video: Thunder welcome James Harden back to OKC with block party

Tweet   James Harden made his much anticipated return to his old stomping grounds tonight as a member of the Houston Rockets and brought with him a 25.1 ppg average, good for fifth in the NBA. When asked about his return Harden said it would be “just another game” and he may very well believe [...]
HELLO, OLD FRIEND

Harden swatted from behind by Westbrook

James Harden had a rough game against his old team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shot poorly, and the Thunder showed that they’re still the dominant team, even without their former sixth-man. Russell Westbrook didn’t make Harden’s night any better with this awesome block from behind on one of Harden’s jumpers: I’m sure James Harden didn’t even know Russell Westbrook...

James Harden and Other Possible First Time All-Stars

James Harden- Houston Rockets - Well the Harden trade for Houston could not have gone better, as he is fifth in the league in scoring and he is now the star they have wanted since Yao retired. He is also averaging over four assists and rebounds per game, while leading his team to wins. Nobody thought that this team had a chance to make the playoffs, but at around .500 they have a...

James Harden Says Playing OKC Is Just Another Game

Following their 117-101 win over the Raptors, the Rockets hopped on a plane for Minneapolis where they will attend Sasha McHale’s funeral today in support of their head coach, Kevin McHale. But that’s not the only reason it will be a long, emotional day. The team will fly to Oklahoma City immediately following the funeral to take on the Thunder tonight in James Harden’s first...

Another huge night for Harden in win

James Harden scored 24 points and matched a career high with 12 assists, Patrick Patterson added 22 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors 117-101 on Tuesday night. Omer Asik had 13 points and 18 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won four in a row. Andrea Bargnani scored 21 points and Terrence Ross added a career-high 19 for the Raptors, who have lost five straight...

Thunder beat Rockets in Harden's OKC return

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Kevin Durant matched his season high with 37 points, and Oklahoma City beat the Houston Rockets 120-98 on Wednesday night in James Harden's first game back in Chesapeake Energy Arena since being traded by the Thunder before the season. Harden scored 17 points, but was limited to 3-for-16 shooting. He had six shots blocked by the Thunder. Patrick Patterson...

Durant ruins reunion as Thunder shut down Rockets' Harden

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It was supposed to be a homecoming for James Harden. After being traded to the Houston Rockets right before the season started, he made his first appearance back in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. However, Kevin Durant spoiled the party. With another all-around strong game of 37 points, seven rebounds and four assists, he led the Thunder to a 120-98 victory at...

Shootaround: Welcome back Harden!

Houston Rockets (7-7) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4) 8 p.m./NBATV Oh, hey there, James. Did not even notice you are gone. Why are you wearing red? There is a game tonight. Huh? You got traded. I thought you looked less beard-y coming off the bench. Tonight, James Harden returns to Oklahoma City for the first time since the trade at the beginning of the season that...

With Leather’s Watch This: Judas James Harden Returns Home To The Fans He Shunned

I haven’t been the most devout NBA fan yet in this young season, so I was a little surprised to see that more than a month later, Oklahoma City Thunder fans are still mad at James Harden. In case you forgot – or simply don’t care, because it’s so damn trivial – Harden turned down a contract extension from the Thunder because it was reportedly lower than the max deal that...

Thunder Players Comment On Facing James Harden For 1st Time

Tomorrow marks exactly a month since the blockbuster trade that sent OKC’s James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston in return for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks. Now that the dust has settled, the Rockets will take on the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena tomorrow night in the 1st matchup between the teams this season. So are the Thunder treating...

State of the Thunder: Hitting high gear

OKLAHOMA CITY Maybe it's because Russell Westbrook is struggling and former running mate James Harden is gone, but Kevin Durant is getting back to his old self. It's not like anyone was concerned Durant was in a slump, but his slow-scoring start was notable. But that's changed. And so have the Thunder. The three-time scoring champion is looking more familiar, and...

Thunder hold off Jazz, sweep homestand

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Kevin Durant scored 25 points, Russell Westbrook made a two-pronged bid for his sixth career triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder finished off an impressive homestand by beating the Utah Jazz 106-94 on Friday night. Oklahoma City won all three games by double digits and made a bid to win three in a row by at least 20 points for the first time in 25 years...
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.