Posted November 29, 2012 on
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Led by the NBA's highest-scoring duo, the Oklahoma City Thunder look just fine despite trading the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
They'll try for their seventh win in eight games Friday night as they host the Utah Jazz, who look to continue their improvement on the road.
The Thunder (12-4) cruised to their third straight victory Wednesday, defeating former teammate James Harden and Houston 120-98. Harden was held to 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting while Kevin Durant scored a season-high 37 points for the second time in three games. Kevin Martin, who came over from the Rockets in the Harden trade, also scored 17.
"We've moved on past it, man," Durant said. "We're happy to see (Harden), glad he's doing well out there in Houston but we wanted this win bad.
"For all those days in practice where him, Daequan (Cook) and Eric Maynor beat the first group, I wanted this win real bad."
Durant's 26.6 points per game and Westbrook's 20.7 make them the league's highest-scoring teammates again, but Westbrook's other numbers may be more significant. The point guard is averaging a career-high 8.6 assists - a jump of more than three from last season - with a career-low 3.1 turnovers.
He tallied nine assists against Houston, his 11th game this season with eight or more. Westbrook reached that total in 12 of his 66 games in 2011-12.
"He's just slowing down and taking his time," Durant told the team's official website. "As you start to grow in this league, the game starts to slow down for you a little bit, you start to see things earlier than you would in your first or second year.
"He's sacrificing shots for himself to mix it around for the whole team. That's what great point guards do and he's having a hell of a season."
Westbrook's increased playmaking is a big reason Oklahoma City's 22.9 assists per game rank near the top of the NBA, compared to last season's league-worst rate of 18.5.
"I think passing the ball is something we can really point to that has been good for us and we need to keep building on that," big man Nick Collison said.
They'll look to do that against a Utah team that has won five of six, including two of its last three road games after starting 1-6 as the visitor. Gordon Hayward sparked the Jazz (9-7) late in Wednesday's 96-84 win at New Orleans.
The Hornets started the fourth quarter with a 13-4 run to trim Utah's lead to seven, but Hayward scored 13 of his 15 points after that to preserve the victory. He had totaled 12 points on 2-of-16 shooting over his previous two games.
"It just kind of came to me," said Hayward, who is averaging a career-best 13.3 points. "I was able to step up and knock some big shots down. I haven't hit those in the past three games so it's good for me to finally knock down some shots."
Hayward missed six shots and did not score in the Jazz's lone visit to Oklahoma City last season, a 111-85 loss Feb. 14. Utah won 97-90 at home March 20 to snap a five-game skid in the series.
The Jazz are expecting Mo Williams to return Friday after missing three straight games with a right foot injury. Marvin Williams, though, is doubtful after he suffered a concussion in the third quarter in New Orleans when he fell to the court.
"I heard it from all the way down on the bench," Hayward said. "It looked pretty painful."
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
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.
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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
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...
Warner Bros. is proud to announce the release of the movie Thunderstruck on DVD and Blu-ray on December 4th, 2012, starring Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. To get fans excited, Warner Bros. has provided us not only with their official Thunderstruck interactive app, but also a FREE copy of the Thunderstruck Blu-Ray Combo Pack to give away to one of our readers! Keep reading...
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.
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...
James Harden- Houston Rockets
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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...
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...
Houston Rockets (7-7) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4)
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...
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...
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.
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The three-time scoring champion is looking more familiar, and...
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...
The Utah Jazz (9-8) travel to Houston tonight to face the Rockets (7-8) for the second time this season. The Rockets lost to the Jazz 102-92 on Nov. 19 in Utah. Harden didn’t have much of an impact the last time out, so look for him to bounce back as he tries to get Houston their fifth straight home win.
AccuScore simulations (10,000) project a Rockets victory 74.1 percent of...