Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - Page 20 News List

NBA: Thunder win to spoil Harden’s return

MISFIRING ROCKETS:Jeremy Lin made six points, eight assists, three rebounds and four steals for Houston, but in vain, as Oklahoma won comfortably

Agencies, with Staff writer

Jason Terry, right, of the Boston Celtics confronts Kris Humphries of the Brooklyn Nets during their NBA game on Wednesday in Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo: AFP

Kevin Durant greeted former teammate James Harden with 37 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder blasted the Houston Rockets 120-98 on Wednesday to spoil the shooting guard’s return to the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Harden returned to Oklahoma City for the first time since being traded just before the season and it was a forgettable night for him and the Rockets (7-8).

Powered by Durant’s hot shooting, the Thunder (12-4) blew open a close game in the second quarter where they led by 18 before keeping the visiting Rockets at bay.

“I really wanted to win this game,” Durant told reporters. “Especially for all those times in practice that [Harden] and the rest of the second team beat all of us on the first team.”

Serge Ibaka backed Durant with 23 and nine rebounds as Oklahoma City raced to their second straight blowout, having destroyed Charlotte 114-69 on Monday.

Harden, the Sixth Man of the Year last season, has emerged as the lead scorer for Houston, but struggled against the Thunder, making three of 16 shots for 17 points.

Jeremy Lin made six points, eight assists, three rebounds and four steals.

It had already been a humbling day for the Rockets who earlier attended the funeral of coach Kevin McHale’s daughter who died from an autoimmune disease last week. McHale has been away from the team since Nov. 10.

Patrick Patterson scored a team-high 27 points for Houston but there were few bright spots for the visitors.

The Rockets were within two after the first quarter, but Oklahoma City opened the second with a 9-0 run and kicked things into another gear.

Kevin Martin, who was sent to the Thunder from Houston as part of the Harden trade, ended up with 17 points off the bench.

Harden got a warm ovation before the game. His quick departure had come as a shock to Thunder fans after he helped lead Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals, but could not come to terms on a new contract with the team.

“I was put in a tough situation where things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to,” Harden said. “That’s in the past. All I can do now is focus on what I need to do to be a better basketball player and leader.”

Nets 95, Celtics 83

In Boston, Joe Johnson scored 18 points, while Andray Blatche had 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Boston Celtics after Rajon Rondo was ejected following a fight.

The Celtics point guard was tossed after he shoved Kris Humphries to retaliate for the Nets forward’s hard foul against Kevin Garnett. Humphries and Brooklyn forward Gerald Wallace were also ejected for their roles in the second-quarter skirmish.

Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Paul Pierce added 14 points for Boston. Rondo had three assists before he was kicked out, ending his streak at 37 games with double-digits, tied for second-longest in NBA history.

The Nets led by 21 in the second half and never less than nine in the fourth quarter.

WIZARDS 84, TRAIL BLAZERS 82

In Washington the Wizards earned their first victory after starting the season with 12 straight losses, getting 19 points from Jordan Crawford to beat Portland.

Washington survived a scoreless 6:47 in the fourth when Crawford hit on a three-pointer with 2:06 to play, and the Wizards finally took the 84-82 lead on Emeka Okafor’s two free throws with 39.1 seconds remaining.

Damian Lillard was called for traveling with 28 seconds left. After Nene was called for an offensive foul, J.J. Hickson missed a jumper with 2.8 seconds to play. The Wizards lost the ball with 0.2 seconds to go, but held on to end the skid.

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