Rockets hit Thunder for sweet 16
CHRIS Paul scored 25 points as the Houston Rockets overpowered Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder to tighten their grip on the Western Conference with a 16th straight victory on Tuesday.
Paul produced a scintillating display of shooting which included five 3-pointers to help the Rockets bring up their 50th win of the season, a 122-112 victory.
Houston now leads the West at 50-13, one game ahead of the Golden State Warriors who defeated the Brooklyn Nets 114-101 on Tuesday.
The Thunder, meanwhile, remain firmly in the battle for one of the lower-seeded playoff spots, lying seventh at 37-29.
Against the Rockets, the talismanic figure of Westbrook once again led the way for the Thunder with 32 points while Carmelo Anthony finished with 23.
Paul George had 17 points while New Zealand’s Steven Adams chipped in with 16 in Oklahoma City.
Houston’s greater depth in offense, however, was to prove decisive, with seven players cracking double digits.
MVP hopeful James Harden was happy to take a backseat to Paul, but still managed to come up with 23 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds.
Harden meanwhile warned against complacency as the Rockets targeted a strong finish to the regular season.
“We’ve still got a long away to go, especially these last 20 games or whatever we’ve got left,” he said. “Every single game is going to be a different challenge that we’re going to face.”
Thunder coach Billy Donovan bemoaned his team’s tendency to concede cheap turnovers.
“We turned the ball over too much, both halves. We need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball.
“I thought the difference in the game was the 3-point line and the free-throw line. We didn’t get there enough and probably put them there too many times.”
In Oakland, Stephen Curry scored 34 points as Golden State eased past Brooklyn at the Oracle Arena.
Kevin Durant had 19 points with Klay Thompson 18 and Draymond Green 16 to maintain the reigning NBA champions’ pursuit of Houston.
Elsewhere, it was: Pelicans 126, Clippers 121; Raptors 106, Hawks 90; 76ers 128, Hornets 114; Wizards 117, Heat 113 (in overtime); Mavericks 118, Nuggets 107; and Trail Blazers 111, Knicks 87.