In a game that both James Harden and Russel Westbrook wanted to solidify their case for MVP, the Houston Rockets were able to edge out the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-116.
OKC was never able to establish a big enough lead to run away with and the only time they led, other than the final minute, was the first quarter. Westbrook was marvelous once again tonight finishing the game with 49 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but Houston had contributions from everyone. The Rockets were able to derail the one man show by having each of their starters, plus Eric Gordon, post double digit points. Harden finished the game with 26 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds, Trevor Ariza had 10 points, Ryan Anderson had 12 points, Nene Hilario had 18 points, Patrick Beverley had 11 points and Eric Gordon was able to contribute 22 points off the bench.
Houston established a pretty commanding lead at halftime with a 67-56 score, and were able to extend that to as much as 15 points in the 3rd quarter as they seemed to be running away with the game. Russel Westbrook wasn’t finished yet however, and his 40 points through 3 quarters kept them in the game. The Thunder got the game tied up late in the final quarter and both teams were trading leads down into the final minute. Westbrook ended up missing some key shots (16-34 shooting) and the Rockets got Nene to the line with .7 second remaining where he nailed two clutch free throws to end the game at 118-116.
Westbrook got the best of Harden in terms of points but Harden was able to play more of an all around game and lead his team to a victory in a tough game. The season series between these two teams is now at a 2-1 advantage for the Rockets and that just makes more of an argument for James Harden to be MVP. While Harden made his case for MVP, Gordon was working to prove himself worthy of the Sixth Man of the Year award, by continuing to be an anchor off the bench for the Houston Rockets.
It was impossible not be drawn to this game because of the magnitude at which both Harden and Westbrook are playing this season and it finished just the way the viewer would have hoped. The MVP race is still extremely close but this game to me, pushed Harden over the edge as he led his team to a very important victory and one of the best records in the NBA (28-9) to this point.