Harden scores 21 points, Rockets beat Thunder for 2-0 lead

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Kim Klement

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates with forward Jeff Green, left, after a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – James Harden had 21 points and nine assists and the Houston Rockets made 19 of an NBA-record 56 3-point attempts to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-98 on Thursday for a 2-0 lead in the first-round Western Conference series.

For all the long-range shots, Harden said the Rockets actually won with defense. Houston held the Thunder to 39 points after the break.

“We played well,” he said. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight. But I think defensively, especially in that second half, we did an unbelievable job just gearing in what they like to do and correcting our mishaps in that first half.”

Former Thunder star Russell Westbrook was out for the Rockets again with a right quad strain, but plenty of other Houston players picked up the slack. Danuel House Jr. scored 19 points.

“It’s not pride, it’s just team energy," House said. "We want to make sure that guys are not caring about themselves so guys are showing great energy on the court and off the court.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points for the Thunder, and Danilo Gallinari added 17.

Oklahoma City dominated the second quarter and led 59-53 at halftime. The Thunder shot 50% in the half. Houston missed its last 15 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Harden scored just eight points on 2-for-10 shooting in the half.

The Rockets went on a 13-0 run early in the second half to regain the lead. Gilgeous-Alexander, who had been cold in the bubble, made three straight 3-pointers to highlight an 11-0 run that put the Thunder ahead again. The Thunder held on and led 78-77 at the end of the third quarter.