Published November 20, 2014
It was a long day for the Houston Rockets and an even longer night for James Harden.
Kevin Durant scored 37 points, while Harden tallied 17 on just 3-of-16 shooting in his return to Oklahoma City, as the Thunder downed the Rockets, 120-98, on Wednesday.
"It felt good just to be competing against those guys and finally get this over with, to play here and get it over with," Harden said.
Serge Ibaka added 23 points for the Thunder, who have won six of their last seven games.
"Seeing him before the game and in chapel just in a different uniform is a little different. We've moved on past it, man. We're happy to see him, glad he's doing well out there in Houston but we wanted this win bad," Durant said of Harden.
Following Tuesday's home win against the Toronto Raptors, the Rockets flew to Minnesota for Wednesday's funeral for Alexandra "Sasha" McHale, the daughter of head coach Kevin McHale, before heading to Oklahoma City.
McHale's 23-year-old daughter passed away Saturday after a long battle with lupus, an auto-immune disease. She had been hospitalized with a related condition.
Harden, who did go 9-of-11 from the foul line, was in the middle of a heated exchange with Oklahoma City backup center Hasheem Thabeet in the second.
Thabeet and Harden traded words after Harden was blocked twice by Thabeet. Thabeet was tossed for bumping into referee Marc Davis, but the ejection was rescinded to a technical foul following instant replay.
The OKC faithful gave Thabeet a standing ovation when he returned to the Thunder bench and booed vehemently when Harden sunk the technical for his first point of the game at the 8:54 mark of the second quarter.
Harden ended the half with three points and misfired on his first nine shots -- 0-of-8 in the opening half. His layup early in the third finally gave him his first field goal.
After the Thunder were unable to work out an extension with Harden in October, they sent the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to the Rockets, along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward, for guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round selection.
"One minute, I was at dinner with my family. The next minute, I'm headed to Houston," Harden said. "It happened pretty quick."
Harden agreed to a maximum contract worth $80 million with the Rockets.
Patrick Patterson had 27 points for Houston, which has gone 4-5 during McHale's absence.
Cook's jumper and 3-pointer gave the Rockets a 19-14 lead, but the Thunder countered with an 22-6 run.
The Thunder, who led 27-25 after a quarter of play, netted the first nine points of the second as a pair of Durant free throws capped the surge and made it 36-25. The margin swelled to as many as 18 before the hosts took a 57-45 edge into the break.
Oklahoma City took an 86-74 advantage into the fourth and led by double digits throughout the final frame.
Ibaka was 11-of-13 from the floor ... Rockets starting forward Chandler Parsons missed the contest due to a shoulder injury ... Harden, the third overall pick of the 2009 draft, averaged 16.8 points and 3.7 assists in 62 contests with the Thunder a year ago.