Basketball / NBA

Thunder rally past Rockets

AP

Paul George said it took a fiery halftime discussion to help the Oklahoma City Thunder overcome the largest deficit they’ve seen all season.

“We just knew we had to have a better second half,” George said. “Being down that much at the half, that’s not the team we are. We know this team very well and we knew that wasn’t us. So we had to come in here and talk and just light a fire under this team and we did that.”

George scored 45 points, Russell Westbrook matched the NBA record with his ninth straight triple-double and Oklahoma City overcame a 26-point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 117-112 on Saturday night.

It was Oklahoma City’s largest comeback victory.

“We just never got into any flow, but then I thought once we got some stops, we got out in transition,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Obviously, Paul with what he did tonight was phenomenal, the way he played. And he was on (James) Harden a lot. He was unbelievable tonight on both ends of the floor.”

Defensively, George fought through screens in the final minute to stay on Harden.

“I look forward to playing against the best,” George said. “That’s how I was taught the game — just enjoy matchups and have fun with it.”

Westbrook had 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds to match the record streak set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Westbrook has 22 triple-doubles this season and 126 overall. He also had 10 turnovers and was 8 of 21 from the field.

“It’s really incredible,” Donovan said. “It took whatever it was, 60 years, until somebody did it just to show you how hard it is to do and how unique of a player he is to be able to do it.”

Harden led the Rockets with 42 points, reaching 30 points for the 29th straight game — two shy of Chamberlain for the second-longest streak in NBA history, but far behind Chamberlain’s record run of 65 games. Harden was 11-for-28 from the field, going 6 of 16 from 3-point range, and made 14 of 15 free throws.

The 26-point deficit was Oklahoma City’s largest of the season.

Westbrook gave the Thunder a one-point lead with a driving layup with 26.9 seconds remaining. On the following possession, Harden missed a 3-pointer, and George got the rebound and was fouled with 3.4 seconds left. He made both free throws put Oklahoma City up three. Houston turned it over on the following inbound play.

George made 12 of 22 shots, hit 6 of 14 3-pointers and made 15 of 18 free throws to finish four points shy of his career-high 49 points set in 2013 with Indiana.

The Thunder made seven of their first eight shots in the third quarter to quickly cut Houston’s lead in half. Oklahoma City outscored Houston 42-20 in the quarter to even the score at 90.

“We knew to get back into the game, we had to defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “We got stops and won a big game on the road.”

Grizzlies 99, Pelicans 90

In Memphis, Joakim Noah had season highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead new-look Memphis past New Orleans.

Justin Holiday had 15 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 14 points, 10 of them in the fourth. C.J. Miles, playing his first game for the Grizzlies added 13 points to help Memphis win for the third time in four games.

Yuta Watanabe was on the bench for Memphis, but did not play.

In Other Games

Clippers 123, Celtics 112

Raptors 104, Knicks 99

Magic 103, Bucks 83

Hornets 129, Hawks 120

Jazz 125, Spurs 105

Pacers 105, Cavaliers 90

Wizards 134, Bulls 125