LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — James Harden had 37 points and 11 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets rolled past the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-108 on Tuesday in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
Houston All-Star Russell Westbrook, who played his previous 11 years with the Thunder, was out with a quad injury. The fourth-seeded Rockets still made 20 3-pointers and shot 48% from the field.
”Our ball movement tonight was excellent,” Harden said. ”We were just playing off the catch, guys were very confident in their shots when they’re open. When they’re not open, they’re getting off the ball and making a quick decision.”
Jeff Green scored 22 points and Eric Gordon added 21 for Houston, which isn’t sure how long it will be without Westbrook. The Rockets got 42 points from their bench.
Danilo Gallinari matched a playoff career high with 29 points for the fifth-seeded Thunder. Chris Paul, who joined the Oklahoma City in the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston, finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Steven Adams added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Gordon scored 16 points and Harden had 15 in the first half to help the Rockets take a 68-52 lead.
”I think probably, that six-minute mark in the first quarter to about the six-minute mark in the second quarter, there was a 12-minute stretch where we got very slow,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. ”We didn’t play with any force, we weren’t playing downhill. We weren’t really getting out and running like we needed to.”
Oklahoma City cut its deficit to 10 at one point in the third quarter, but the Rockets pulled away and led 104-83 heading into the fourth.
The Thunder need to adjust to Houston’s zone defense in Game 2.
”We’re going to figure it out,” Paul said. ”It’s a different team. You play the whole season a certain way and then you’ve got a team that switches everything. It’s Game 1. We’ve got to figure it out.”
Thunder: G Lu Dort, a rookie starter, missed the game with a sprained right knee. … Terrance Ferguson started in Dort’s place and scored six points. … Paul was called for a technical foul as the team was heading into the halftime break, and Harden opened the third quarter at the free-throw line.
Rockets: Held the Thunder to 30% shooting in the first quarter to take a 28-20 lead. … Had just seven turnovers. … Ben McLemore scored 14 points. … Green played for the Thunder for 2 1/2 seasons from 2008 to 2011.
Gallinari scored his 29 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
”I was just trying to use the height advantage in the post,” the 6-foot-10 forward said. ”Just trying to keep moving. The more you move without the ball, the more effective you can be offensively.”
The Rockets outscored the Thunder by 28 points while Green was on the floor.
”That’s what we need with Russ out,” Harden said. ”Even with Russ in the game, we need guys to step up and make plays. Jeff was aggressive tonight.”
Gordon had missed six games in the restart with a sprained left ankle.
”Eric looked back to his old ways,” Harden said. ”We’re going to need that every single game from here on out.”
The series resumes on Thursday.
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