OKLAHOMA CITY -- Aaron Brooks kept looking to see when Luis Scola was going to come back to the Houston bench. Once the game was finally over, he realized why the Rockets' starting forward never did.
Gouged in the right eye only 22 seconds into the Rockets' 100-91 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, Scola sported a bandage over his eye in the locker room.
"At first I didn't think it was that bad. I'd seen some blood and I'd seen a cut, but you never know how bad it was. To come in here and he looks like Captain Hook, you kind of feel bad for him," said Brooks, who scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half. "So, I hope he gets back, and we had to pull it out for him."
Scola was hurt on a freak play as the Thunder's Etan Thomas dunked with his right hand, simultaneously smacking Scola in the face with his left.
A trainer came onto the court to help Scola, and he held a towel up to his face as he walked to the locker room. He would end up getting seven stitches on his right eyelid.
Houston's problems soon escalated as Oklahoma City reeled off 10 straight points to take a 20-11 lead, and then Shane Battier and Carl Landry -- Scola's replacement -- got into foul trouble.
"Late in the second quarter when I realized that [Scola] wasn't on the bench, I realized that he wasn't coming back for the most part" Landry said. "He wasn't on the bench and I was on the bench."
Landry made up for it in the second half, scoring 17 of his 21 points on 7 for 13 shooting. He also had nine of his team-high 10 rebounds after halftime.
"The first half, I was kind of just frustrated because every foul seemed like it was an offensive foul on me," said Landry, who had two of his three first-half fouls on the offensive end. "I was juiced up with a lot of energy, ready to go in the second half. When I got into the game, it seemed like I was playing with a little exhaustion."
The Rockets were already without oft-injured All-Stars Tracy McGrady (knee) and Yao Ming (foot), who have missed the team's first 17 games, when Scola went down early.
"Most of the guys on the team aren't used to that type of adjustment but, hey, they better start because it's a long season and players are going to get hurt," Landry said, referring to all the new players on the Rockets' roster this season.
"Players are going to be out for a while, and you never know when you're number's going to get called. When it does, you've got to be ready."
Kevin Durant scored 25 points to lead Oklahoma City, who had just nine healthy players with starting center Nenad Krstic out with a sore Achilles tendon on his left foot. Russell Westbrook had 20 points and Jeff Green scored 12 for the Thunder, who committed 20 turnovers and went just 1 for 15 from 3-point range.
Trevor Ariza added 17 points and reserve David Andersen had 12 points and eight rebounds for Houston.
The Rockets used a 29-14 advantage on the boards to rally back from a 54-45 halftime deficit. Half of Houston's 46 rebounds came on the offensive end.
"When the ball goes up, you have to make that effort to go after the ball. We can't leak out and we can't give up second-chance opportunities, and that's what killed us," Green said.
Landry hit two free throws with 5:12 remaining to put Houston up 82-80, and Brooks followed with a 3-pointer from the left wing, hitting the deck after he released the ball. The duo combined to score 15 of the Rockets' final 20 points.
Houston won for the 12th straight time in the series and overcame a double-digit deficit in a victory for the third time this season.
After Russell Westbrook's jumper pulled Oklahoma City within a point -- 85-84 -- Brooks answered by driving past Green for a layup and then nailing a jumper from the left wing to push the lead to five. Both then had misses before Andersen bailed out the Rockets with a putback that made it 91-86.
Landry provided the finishing touch with a two-handed jam after Brooks found him open under the basket. The Rockets went 9 for 10 from the foul line to close it out.
"They just outhustled us," Green said. "They were the first to the ball and made the hustle plays. We didn't get the offensive rebounds that we needed. We didn't get the stops that we needed towards the end."