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Thunder thump Rockets despite missing Westbrook

Houston Rockets star James Harden tries to shoot around Oklahoma City's Paul George in the Thunder's 98-80 NBA victory on Thursday
AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) – Paul George scored 20 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a seventh straight NBA victory on Thursday, a dominant 98-80 home triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle, but with Westbrook offering advice and energy from the bench Oklahoma City didn’t miss a beat.

George led the way, pulling down 11 rebounds, handing out six assists and coming up with six steals — one shy of his career record.

“I was all right,” George said. “I wasn’t great, I was all right. You can always perform better, you can always make more shots.”

Even if he didn’t sound too enthused about his own performance, George was pleased with the Thunder’s performance overall as they continued their resurgence in the wake of an 0-4 start to the season.

“I was just happy with the way we came out — we played hard,” he said. “That’s what’s been getting us over the hump is our energy and effort.”

New Zealander Steven Adams had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder. Terrance Ferguson and Dennis Schroder added 14 points apiece as all five Thunder starters and substitute Raymond Felton scored in double figures.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said before the game he didn’t know when Westbrook would return to the court. But the Thunder star was a presence on the sidelines, energetically exhorting his teammates.

“He’s constantly in our ears,” George said. “We lean on him. He helps us even when he’s not playing.”

James Harden led the Rockets with 19 points but connected on just seven of 19 shots from the field. Clint Capela added 17 for the Rockets, who saw a three-game winning streak snapped.

Houston’s 80 points were their fewest in a game in coach Mike D’Antoni’s tenure.

Carmelo Anthony, who played for the Thunder last season before being traded to the Rockets, epitomized Houston’s woes as he endured a nightmare return to Oklahoma City.

He scored two points — making one of his 11 shots as the Rockets, who led the league with 65 wins last season, fell to 4-6.

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