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Rockets use offense to roll past Thunder

HOUSTON -- The offensive display by the Houston Rockets on Sunday afternoon was another indication of how difficult this team will be to defeat when the postseason starts.

Houston beat up the Oklahoma City Thunder 137-125 on Sunday and the final score isn’t a fair assessment of how thorough the beatdown was.

In the first half, the Rockets set season highs for points (71) and field goal percentage (71.4) with James Harden, the MVP candidate, scoring just 12 points.

“We were on a streak from the beginning of the game,” said Harden, who finished with 22 points on 15 shots and 12 assists. “Offensively we were in attack mode and defensively we stuck to our coverages. Just from the beginning of the game we were locked in. And as a result, we rode that lead all the way until the end of the game.”

The Rockets’ 137 points marked the 11th time they’ve scored at least 130 points this season, the highest total by any team since 1992-93 and the second-highest total in franchise history. Houston is 27-1 when it scores at least 120 points.

Harden wasn’t needed to make any statements about being the MVP over Russell Westbrook. The only statement necessary was that Harden has company that can possibly help with a deep playoff run.

With Ryan Anderson out for the next two weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Rockets showed the rest of the league, particularly the Thunder, a potential first-round opponent, just how many offensive weapons they really have.

Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza combined for 48 points on 24 shots. Clint Capela scored 11 points, blocked two shots and grabbed nine rebounds. Lou Williams, in his first meeting against the Thunder since the late-February trade to the Rockets, was outstanding. He had 31 points on 15 shots and backed up coach Mike D’Antoni’s comments about manufacturing shots for others. Williams had four assists, slightly better than his 3.2 average the past five games.

Nene Hilario continues to play such a strong, physical brand of basketball, as he added 17 points, which included his own version of the Euro step. The 6-foot-11 Brazilian went to the hole like a small forward for a layup in the first half.

Sam Dekker, who has lost minutes since the acquisition of Williams, earned 23, his most since March 15 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dekker scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds.

Even Patrick Beverley, who missed all six of his shot attempts, had five assists, pressured Westbrook on defense and was plus-6 in the box score.

“It’s tough, especially when we are making shots,” Williams said when asked how difficult the Rockets are to guard. “When we are making shots, we are probably one of the hardest teams to guard. And tonight when [the Thunder] we’re making runs, we always answered back with a big shot. When we are on and guys are passing the ball, swinging it around and making shots, I think we are a very good team.”

Elite team is more accurate just based on how strong the Rockets have been this year. The three previous games against the Thunder were decided by seven points, so to find a game in which a team led wire-to-wire was strange within itself.

But the Rockets made another statement about how good of a team they are.

“It’s a good win for us,” Beverley said. “Any win that we get, we appreciate. But we have another tough task ahead of us in Golden State [on Tuesday] and that’s where our mindset is right now.”