By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Houston’s Patrick Beverley has never been one to shy away from a challenge. That includes trying to slow down the “walking triple double,” Russell Westbrook.
When Oklahoma City and Huston faced off Friday night, Beverley was matched up with Westbrook in the games final seconds. Beverley won the battle and the war as the Rockets prevailed 102-99 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I don’t want to say what I want to say. We just tried to show bodies and force him into a crowd,” Beverley said of his defense on Westbrook. “Make it real tough for him. We were fortunate. He’s a really, really, really, really, really, really good player. We were fortunate to come up with a stop.”
Houston won despite a seventh straight triple double Westbrook. However, this was the first one to come in a loss. Westbrook had 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, and his triple-double streak matches Michael Jordan’s seven-game run in the 1988-89 season.
Beverley gave Westbrook credit, sort of.
“He’s a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really good player,” Beverley said. “You got to think I got all my friends telling me ‘Don’t let him get a triple double. Don’t let him get a triple double.’ Like I said he is one of the best players in the league. I am just happy we were fortunate to get a win today.”
James Harden shot 6 of 23 from the field on his way to 21 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds as he barely missed a triple-double. Guard Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 17 points while Ryan Anderson knocked in 14 points. Beverley grabbed 12 rebounds as the Rockets improved to 16-7.
“For sure, we’re up there,” Harden said of his team being compared to the Warriors and Spurs. “We still have a long way to go. We’re going to continue to grow, continue to work hard and play for each other.”
Center Steven Adams scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Thunder, who dropped to 14.9. Victor Oladipo and Anthony Morrow each scored 12 points.
The Rockets outrebounded the Thunder 52-46, which Thunder coach Billy Donovan said was a key to the game.
“I thought our guys competed and battled,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Particularly on the defensive end of the floor. They are a hard team to guard. I thought the difference in the game was the fact we turned it over 17 times. And their ability to take a lot of threes and rebound on misses. They did a great job of doing that again.”
With the Thunder trailing by five, Oladipo and Westbrook missed back to back 3-point attempts before Andre Roberson was fouled driving to the basket. He made one free throw and cut the lead to four with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Westbrook then stole a Harden pass and was going for a dunk before Anderson was called for a clear path foul. Westbrook nailed both free throw attempts and Oklahoma City kept the ball with 3:21 to go.
Westbrook missed an off-balance bank shot and Harden made the Thunder pay with a driving layup.
However, Westbrook came back with a three-point play and Oklahoma City trailed 96-95.
It was Harden’s turn to get fouled and he hit both free throws to put Houston up by three with 2:36 left.
Westbrook then scored, but missed a free throw that would have tied the contest. Anderson put back a Harden missed shot and the Rockets led by three.
Another pair of Westbrook free throws and a Harden turnover put Oklahoma City in position to take the lead with 28 seconds left.
Westbrook drove to the basket and attempted a scoop layup. The ball came out of the basket and went and out of bounds off the Rockets.
With Beverley guarding him, Westbrook dribbled around the perimeter for almost 10 seconds before launching a contested 3-pointer that turned into an air ball. Westbrook said it was his fault he missed the shot and not due to the defense of Beverley.
“I just missed,” Westbrook said. “I missed a lot of easy shots. I just have to get my mind right.”
Trevor Ariza got the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to put the Rockets up 102-99 with 5.8 on the clock.
The Thunder couldn’t get the ball into Westbrook, but found an open Morrow. However, with Harden charging at him, Morrow’s shot came up short to end the game.
“It’s fun, it’s like playing in the streets on the playground,” Beverley said. “I really felt like this year I wanted to be the best defensive player in the league right now and I’m just trying to show that every game.”