HOUSTON -- Rockets guard James Harden finally found his shooting stroke against his former team, and his brilliance paved the way for Houston's 122-119 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Harden, who shot a combined 9-for-33 in a pair of blowout losses to the Thunder earlier this season, scored a career-high 46 points and added eight rebounds and six assists. His 14-point first quarter got the short-handed Rockets rolling, and Harden carried Houston home with 16 points in the fourth, including several stunning shots.
With the Thunder leading 109-104, Harden converted a difficult drive to his left into a layup, and then tied the game at 111 with a 3-pointer that followed a mesmerizing dribbling display against Serge Ibaka.
While Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefolosha poured in a career-high 28 points on 6-for-10 3-point shooting, Thunder all-stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook again proved adept at managing the ball-handling duties lost when Harden was traded to Houston just prior to the start of the season.
Durant posted a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, while Westbrook added 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. But Harden refused to relent, providing points and leadership as the Rockets played without forwards Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris as well as reserve center Cole Aldrich and backup guard Toney Douglas. They were part of a three-team trade that included the Kings and Suns.
Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin supported Harden with 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Houston forward Chandler Parsons chipped in 17 points and six rebounds while ably defending Durant down the stretch despite missing time in the second half with a sprained ankle. Lin drained a 3-pointer with 1:46 remaining to put Houston ahead to stay.
With Harden leading the charge, the Rockets connected on eight of their first 10 3-pointers and led 36-29 heading into the second quarter. But the Rockets followed by missing 10 consecutive treys, and the Thunder didn't waste the chance to race to a lead that ballooned to 12 points.
NOTES: With the trade deadline looming Thursday, the Rockets were busy. Houston shipped Patterson, Aldrich, Douglas and cash to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for forward Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt. Morris was sent to the Phoenix Suns, where he will play with his twin brother, Markeiff. Houston received a 2013 second-round pick from Phoenix, according to several media reports. Patterson and Morris combined to average 20.2 points and 8.8 rebounds as the Rockets' tandem at power forward. Robinson, whose potential is considerable, averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds off the Kings' bench.