Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

November 29, 2012

NBA: Thunder hands Harden, Rockets a beatdown

OKLAHOMA CITY —  James Harden's return to Oklahoma City was only a small part of an emotional day for the Houston Rockets.

Kevin Durant matched his season high with 37 points and the Thunder beat Houston 120-98 on Wednesday night, after the Rockets made a stop in Minnesota earlier in the day to attend the funeral of coach Kevin McHale's daughter.

Harden scored 17 points, but was limited to 3-for-16 shooting. He had six shots blocked by the Thunder.

After a draining 24 hours, he was ready to put it behind him.

"It felt good just to be competing against those guys and finally get this over with, to play here and get it over with," Harden said. "Now, I can continue on with the season."

Harden missed his first nine shots, and by the time he made one, the Rockets were down by double digits in the second half. They never got closer than 10 after that.

Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year as Oklahoma City made it to the finals last season, was unable to agree on a contract extension with the Thunder and was traded just before the season started.

Harden said before the game that he thought there was a "very slight chance" that he'd be traded. He has complained that general manager Sam Presti gave him only one hour to mull over Oklahoma City's final offer before the trade.

"One minute, I was at dinner with my family. The next minute, I'm headed to Houston," Harden said. "It happened pretty quick."

Harden then agreed to a maximum contract worth $80 million with Houston — something Oklahoma City wasn't willing to offer; there would have been severe salary cap ramifications if it had.

Harden said he felt "relaxed" and not pressured by the circumstances, although it didn't show in his game. Only a meaningless 3-pointer in the final 3 minutes prevented him from his worst shooting percentage yet with Houston.

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