OKLAHOMA CITY — When Oklahoma City announced that Russell Westbrook was going to miss a few weeks as his knee healed, the prevailing thought was that Kevin Durant would have to step up his game. Even though he had been playing at an All-Star level, even more would be expected of him if the team would survive the loss of Westbrook.
However, unlike when the team lost Westbrook in last year’s postseason, this Thunder squad believes it doesn’t have to be all on Durant’s shoulders. They showed that Sunday when they rolled over the Houston Rockets 117-86 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Going through that kind of prepared us for this time,” Durant said. “It’s still tough not having him here, but we know what we have to do. We learned from our mistakes last time. We just keep getting better.”
As well as the Thunder played, the Rockets had one of their worst performances of the season, which didn’t sit well with coach Kevin McHale.
“We didn’t play well the whole night,” McHale said. “They outplayed us. They were more aggressive than we were. They attacked. We couldn’t find a lineup that could work.”
Durant scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Oklahoma City (25-2) to a second consecutive win without Westbrook. But while Durant shone as usual, it was the Thunder’s supporting cast that stole the show. Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to score 22 points while Reggie Jackson added 16 points and eight assists starting in Westbrook’s place.
Houston (21-12) was led in scoring by reserve guard Aaron Brooks, with 17. Chandler Parsons added 15 points. Dwight Howard was held to nine points and nine rebounds and guard James Harden scored eight points on 2-for-9 shooting. As a team Houston compiled a total of eight assists and was outrebounded 49-38.