OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Kevin Durant scored 42 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Houston Rockets 106-98 on Tuesday night.
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook scored 24 points and got the best of nemesis Patrick Beverley. During last year’s playoffs, Beverley dived for the ball and ran into Westbrook’s right knee as a timeout was being called, causing the injury that ended Westbrook’s season and cost him about half of this season. It was their first meeting since the incident.
Serge Ibaka had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Thunder, who had lost two straight.
Former Thunder guard James Harden scored 28 points, Chandler Parsons scored 19 and Dwight Howard had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets. Houston had won five straight, including victories over Miami, Indiana and Portland.
The chippiness started early in Tuesday’s game. Beverley swiped the ball away from Westbrook after a timeout with 6:10 left in the first quarter. Beverley and Westbrook had to be separated, and Beverley issued a technical foul. Beverley and Westbrook got tangled up again about a minute later.
Midway through the second quarter, Harden and backup Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson had to be separated.
Westbrook spent the rest of the second quarter dominating Beverley. Westbrook blew past him for a layup, then lost him on a screen and made a 3-pointer to put the Thunder up 49-32. Westbrook drew Beverley’s third foul on a 3-point attempt with 2:50 left in the first half.
Westbrook scored 11 points in the final 6:19 of the quarter to help the Thunder take a 56-41 lead at the break. Oklahoma City held Houston to 35 percent shooting in the first half.
Howard committed his third and fourth fouls in the first two minutes of the third quarter, and Beverley committed his fourth with 8:52 left in the third as the Thunder maintained control.
Oklahoma City led by 18 at one point in the third quarter, but the Rockets chipped away late in the period and trailed 77-67 heading into the fourth.
Houston rallied, and a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia and a dunk by Omer Asik cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 77-72 early in the fourth. Durant answered with five straight points to put the Thunder back in control.
The game remained chippy. Garcia got hit in the face by Durant, drawing a technical. Harden hit a 3-pointer with Derek Fisher in his face to trim Oklahoma City’s lead to 97-92 with 2:23 to go.
Westbrook drew Beverley’s fifth foul on a 3-point attempt, drawing a cheer from the crowd. Westbrook drained all three free throws to put the Thunder up 102-94 with 1:31 to play.
NOTES: Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game that C Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) and Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain) are a ways from being ready to play. Perkins was hurt Feb. 20 against Miami. Sefolosha was injured Feb. 28 against Memphis. … Durant scored 12 points in the first quarter. … Oklahoma City’s post players combined to commit seven fouls in the first quarter. … Howard was called for a technical foul in the second quarter after disagreeing with an offensive foul call. … Oklahoma City center Steven Adams was called for a flagrant 1 for making contact with Harden’s head.