NBA highlights on Feb. 9: OKC defeat Rockets via 26-point comeback
Li Xiang

Saturday witnessed a nine-game slate of NBA action. The Oklahoma City Thunder came back from a 26-point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 117-112 at the Toyota Center.

Rockets-Thunder: A tale of two halves

Paul George (L) of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to block a three-pointer by Houston's James Harden (R), February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

Paul George (L) of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to block a three-pointer by Houston's James Harden (R), February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

Paul George dropped a game-high 45 points and 11 rebounds for OKC, while Russell Westbrook finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 points for his ninth-straight triple-double, despite committing 10 turnovers. Terrance Ferguson and Dennis Schroder scored 15 and 17 points, respectively.

Houston's James Harden scored a team-high 42 points, but only added two rebounds and one assist. Chris Paule finished one assist shy of a triple-double, with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Kenneth Faried had a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double.

Rockets players huddle during their game against OKC, February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

Rockets players huddle during their game against OKC, February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

The Thunder in the first quarter gave the mission of defending Harden to George and Ferguson, who both enjoy a height advantage. They did well by limiting Harden's field goal percentage to 37.5 percent (3/8), but other Rockets enjoyed hot hands to make five three-pointers this quarter. On offense, OKC committed seven turnovers due to inefficient passing.

Having trailed by three points (25-28) after Q1, the Thunder continued their carelessness with the ball in the second quarter to allow 17 points off of four turnovers. Moreover, as OKC looked to George more on offense, his defense on Harden became limited. This allowed Harden the chance to drop 25 points in the half.

James Harden (#13) shoots a layup against the Thunder on February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

James Harden (#13) shoots a layup against the Thunder on February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

As the first two quarters finished, Oklahoma City only had two players scoring double digits: George (17 points) and Westbrook (15 points). By contrast, Harden, Paul and Eric Gordon all dropped over 10 points for the Rockets. Meanwhile, thanks to Houston's three-point rain (12 three-pointers made), the home team led 70-48 before the second half.

The game took a favorable turn for OKC in the third quarter. First, Schroder exploded for 13 points to match George. Though Westbrook only had three points, he ran the team's offense well by helping others sink seven three-pointers. Moreover, the Thunder in this quarter took full advantage of their athleticism to expand their lead in rebounding to 41-28.

Paul George (#13) of the Thunder dunks in the game against the Rockets on February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

Paul George (#13) of the Thunder dunks in the game against the Rockets on February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

By contrast, the Rockets grew cold from the three-point line and made only one shot there. Though they forced six turnovers, Houston committed the same number. Furthermore, Harden suffered from shoulder issues and only scored five points before he went to sit on the bench. Houston saw their lead vanish completely after a 20-42 quarter.

In the last quarter, the two sides kept exchanging the lead via scoring runs. George and Harden launched a scoring contest by posting 15 and 12 points, respectively, this quarter. However, the shoulder injury forced Harden to alter his shooting, which lowered his percentage beyond the arc. Though he managed to make a floater in the last 30 seconds, Harden missed Houston's last three-pointer and had to watch George seal the victory for the Thunder by making two free throws.

Russell Westbrook (#0) of the Thunder shoots in the game against the Rockets on February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

Russell Westbrook (#0) of the Thunder shoots in the game against the Rockets on February 9, 2019. /VCG Photo

Having lost Saturday's game, Houston now fell behind the top three teams in the Western Conference by four games, but Utah is now closing the gap on them. Though Paul played one of his best games this season, it's still far from what the Rockets paid him 160 million U.S. dollars for. Meanwhile, the team's overreliance on Harden is taking its toll, but with only 27 games left in the regular season, Houston doesn't seem to have much choice.

Other games on Saturday included: (away teams come first)

San Antonio Spurs 105-125 Utah Jazz

Cleveland Cavaliers 90-105 Indiana Pacers

Charlotte Hornets 129-120 Atlanta Hawks

Toronto Raptors 104-99 New York Knicks

Los Angeles Clippers 123-112 Boston Celtics

Washington Wizards 134-125 Chicago Bulls

New Orleans Pelicans 90-99 Memphis Grizzlies

Orlando Magic 103-83 Milwaukee Bucks